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2007 05 11
Offering a Seat on the TTC: Not as Easy as You Think

Of the many TTC rules of etiquette, one of the more tricky maneuvers is the ‘seat offer’. Although seemingly simplistic enough (what’s so tricky about getting up and offering your seat to someone anyway?) there are two potential pitfalls:

Pitfall # 1: Who Do You Offer a Seat To?
Many years ago, as a child attending a daycare in East York, I would look forward to our frequent field trips around the city. Always by TTC. All of us had been carefully trained by our daycare supervisors to offer our seat to two categories of persons; elderly or pregnant. So well trained were we, that whenever we were on the TTC we would eagerly look out for the sight of a white or grey haired person, or a woman with a big belly. We needed these clues; when you’re four of five years old, everyone looks old and big, remember? As soon as such a person was spotted we would leap out of our seats, almost in unison, fervently hoping that our seat was chosen above all the others. In retrospect, this must have been somewhat alarming to the seat-seeker.
One day, as we were all seated at the back of a TTC bus, a pregnant woman gingerly made her way to the back of the bus. I was the lucky one that day; as we leapt, she bestowed only me with a smile, and settled into my seat. This entitled me to a certain smugness and even a hint of arrogance for the remainder of the afternoon; she had chosen my seat! The daycare supervisor, however, was less than pleased. I was completely baffled until she explained; the woman I had given the seat to was, in fact, not pregnant at all. Apparently, although she fulfilled the big belly criteria, this was not a category of person for whom a seat should be offered.
The lesson? Give pregnant women an extra careful look on the TTC before offering your seat. You may otherwise end up embarrassing a woman who is simply heavyset.

Pitfall # 2: How Do You Offer a Seat to Someone?
Many years ago I lived in what is now the trendy Leslieville area, and rode the 501 Queen streetcar almost daily. This was both a curse and a blessing; although it is my fave streetcar route, it is also one of the most unreliable. However, when travelling West I almost always got a seat because of my Easterly location.
On a day when the streetcar was particularly crowded, I found myself seated in one of the single seats on the left side of the streetcar. Before long I saw an elderly woman making her way towards me. Then the dilemma: should I get up and explicitly offer her the seat (which may embarrass some people who do not consider themselves frail enough to require an offered seat), or should I simply get up as she passes and let her seat herself? Seeing her fight her way through the crowded front of the car (making admirable use of her cane) gave me the impression that she was one tough broad, so I opted for the latter approach. As I rose, smiling at her as a subtle hint, a young man snuck in and took the seat himself! The woman and I glanced askance at each other, and I decided to take action. Tapping the young man on the shoulder I politely informed him that I had vacated the seat for this woman’s use. He gave me and the elderly woman an irritated look, sighed elaborately, and got up muttering under his breath. Apparently we were the rude ones. But the goal was accomplished; she got her seat.
The lesson? Make it clear to both the seat offeree and nearby passengers who your offered seat is intended for.

Hungry for more? Check out over 200 tips for riding the TTC (and Sean Lerner’s TTC Subway Rider Efficiency Guide) here.

Image from the CBC.
[email this story] Posted by Liza Badaloo on 05/11 at 09:43 PM

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