Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Pregnancy and the problem of bad manners when travelling

Baby on Board standing
Image credit: Annie Mole | Flickr
What would you do if you were sat on a busy bus or train and saw a pregnant women get on board?  Would you offer your seat or turn the other cheek?

Sadly, it would appear that many people opt for the latter.  This makes me sad...and a little bit mad (well, definitely exasperated).  I know that you should never expect to be automatically given a seat - when I was pregnant I certainly never thought that a seat on public transport was my God given right - but whatever happened to good old-fashioned manners?

I was taking the train to work this morning.  It was just shy of 9am in the morning and surprisingly, the train was still filled with commuters on their way to work.  At one stop, a pregnant lady got onto the train.  Her bump was very obvious and she was wearing a Baby on Board badge.

All seats were taken so we were both standing.  I tried to give her as much room as possible to make sure she wasn't squashed against other standing passengers.  She was spotted by some of those lucky seated commuters, of that I am sure, but guest what...most opted to ignore her.

I saw all the seated men instantly look down, becoming engrossed in their smartphone or crossword puzzle all of a sudden.  Many of the women chose to turn their heads and stare resolutely out of the window, suddenly fall asleep or begin their meticulous make-up routine.  It wasn't until one woman at the back of the carriage spotted the pregnant lady and offered her a seat.

Like I've already said, I don't think pregnant women should necessarily assume or expect to be given a seat on public transport, but it's good manners to offer them one.  And so few people seem to do so - why?

I admit that it can be very difficult to know for sure if a woman is in the early stages of pregnancy and that people might think twice of offering their seat up to avoid any potential embarrassment.  That's why 'Baby on Board' badges are so handy; so that you without a shadow of a doubt who is and isn't pregnant.  In this particular instance though, not only only was the woman in question wearing said badge, she was also very obviously pregnant.  That's just bad manners.

I've heard reasons why some people don't give up their seats;
"I've paid for my ticket just like her, I'm entitled to my seat."
"She chose to get pregnant.  She needs to live with the consequences."
"Pregnancy's not a disease.  It was her choice."
"Why should I offer my seat when no-one ever did that for my wife?"
"There are plenty of other people on the train, they can give their seat up."

I'm sorry but none of those wash with me.  It's just people making excuses for their bad - and selfish - behaviour.  As a Mum, I'd love to call them up on it and put them in the 'naughty corner'!

And let's be clear about this, it's not just pregnant women who suffer, but others who are less able too.  I've seen elderly people ignored and even a blind person once.  It seems to be worse on the London Underground and especially during the daily commuter rush-hours (there is such a dog-eat-dog, 'I'd-rather-stamp-on-your-face-then-give-up-my-seat', 'slow-me-down-and-I'll kill-you', 'there's-no-room-for-manners-I-just-want-to-get-home-as-quickly-as-possible' type of attitude amongst London commuters, it's so utterly depressing).

At what point did basic manners like this fall by the wayside and what on earth does this say about society today?  It's a sad day when we only consider ourselves and give no thought at all to our fellow man.  I'm constantly trying to teach my children good manners but I sometimes wonder what the point of it is if no-one else is bothering with them.  I worry about what my children will learn from seeing the bad manners of others, if they will follow their example and dismiss basic niceties.  I truly hope not.

What are your experiences of travelling by public transport whilst pregnant?

Image credit: acme | Flickr

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