A VERY ‘CHIVALROUS’ CHICAGO

AN OPEN SEAT DURING RUSH-HOUR IS A RARE THING ON THE CTA’S RED LINE. BUT IF THERE IS ONE OPEN AROUND ME, I’M SURE SOME MAN IS GOING TO POINT IT OUT TO ME SO I CAN HAVE A SEAT.

Yes, I see it. There’s is an open seat right across from where I am standing.

“Would you like to sit down?” the man asks me, as he gestures to the empty spots.

“No, thank you though,” I tell him. “I really would rather stand.” (And I would … I pick the same spot on the Red Line twice a day, one that offers me the ability to lean against the wall of the train. It’s a great spot to avoid the throngs of commuters, get lost in an album on my iPod and perfect to avoid making eye contact with some of the creeps who always seem to be going my way.)

But the problem is, I feel as if I am letting him down when I tell him no. (At least the crazy look he gives me let’s me know that I am.)

Didn’t mean to hurt your feelings sir by refusing your offer …

Chivalry, it seems, is not dead.

Well, not in his mind, anyway. Had it been a packed train, me struggling to stay on my feet, bags in hand … and the man got out of his seat and then offered it to me … well good for him. But you see, he had done nothing for me except point out the obvious.

This is something that happens quite often for me, and I am not really sure why. (I am not pregnant, disabled nor elderly, and by law, they are the only ones you have to get up for on the CTA … not that anyone ever really does.) But at least once a week, someone is pointing out an open seat in the car I am on. (And no, I’m not blind either.) I know people are just trying to be nice. I know that of the older Asian gentleman who got out of his seat on the bus yesterday, came over to where I was standing making chit-chat with a stranger, and preceded to lower the seats off the wall for us.

“Sit down, you can sit down,” he told us in his broken English.

“Thank you,” I told him. “We know.”

“We know, we know,” the guy I was conversing with repeated to him. We had both purposely picked the spot where the seats were flipped up against the wall for wheelchair access. (Him because to sit he would have to remove his backpack. Me, because I knew I would only be on the bus for mere blocks.) He rolled his eyes at me as I stood there silently debating what to do.

Normally, I would have just continued to stand – I only had two stops left to go. But there was something so earnest about the way he wanted to help us that made me go against my own sense of normality.

So, I sat down as thanked him again. Then exited the bus a full one minute later. But I had at least made the gesture he offered me a viable one in his mind.

Even if I knew I could sit down all along.

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