So, I'm on the bus this morning and heading downtown. I plop down in the first seat of a momentarily near-empty bus in the disabled/elderly section at the front. Others picked up along the way, a fit-looking middle-aged construction worker type, a late teen/early 20-something and a middle-aged woman also decide the front of the bus is as good a place as any to park themselves. The young woman spends the entire time on her cell phone locked in an intense, if not self-important conversation.
Several stops into the ride down Genesee Street the bus stops and a frail, elderly woman probably in her 80s and sporting a cane and, upon close inspection, a bit of shakiness that often goes along with such advanced years, makes her way onto the bus. The driver immediately starts to set down the plank at the foot of the bus but you could tell the woman's pride overtook her because she shimmied her way up, instead.
Immediately I know I'm wrong. In fact, I knew that as soon as I sat down in the designated "disabled/elderly" section but I also knew that I wasn't alone. All of us "guilty" and somewhat fit folks, at least more so than this poor woman, should have jumped up and offered not one but ALL of the seats to her. I stare over at the construction worker guy. Nothing. He's lazily gazing straight ahead. The chatty young woman. Nothing. She's still chatting. My partner in crime next to me. Nothing.
The elderly lady glances at the full section and starts, slowly, to make her way to the other, less convenient seats to the rear. "Ma'am," I ask, while simultaneously jumping up, grabbing my gear and heading over to one of the seating areas in the middle section. "Here, please take my seat." She looked surprised. And grateful. It was as if that hadn't happened before and was remarkably unusual. That's sad.
Worse, another couple of stops and this time an elderly man carrying a cane enters the bus. He's a bit more able than his predecessor but nonetheless a little shaky and uncertain. After scanning the disabled/elderly section he, too, decides to silently and slowly head to the rear of the bus. No one moved!
People, we all should remember, myself included, that the disabled/elderly section of the bus, train or plane belongs to those who deserve it. (Same also could be said of parking passes but that's another of my colleague's blogs, Outrages & Insights). And the responsibility doesn't necessarily belong to the bus driver who could risk getting his block knocked off trying to enforce such a simple rule and whose primary job it is to drive.
Common courtesy. Respect. And decency. That's it.
I'm sure, or would like to think in this City of Good Neighbors, that such scenarios do not play themselves out on a regular, semi-regular or occasional basis. Perhaps my experience on that bus was out of the ordinary. One would hope so.
It's a lesson learned, or one that should be. Areas designated for specific individuals should be available, at all times, for the intended parties.
Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer