Transit City: An awkward, pregnant pause

I was wondering why she was reading a children’s book. I didn’t see the title page, didn’t catch its name. But I could see, peering down on her as I stood holding on to the pole in the subway, snooping, something in big, kid-friendly type, about frogs. She seemed engrossed; was reading intently.

This middle-aged woman wore a sheepskin hat, black curls peering out from underneath. Her face had a sophisticated, intelligent look that sat in opposition to the book she was reading.

Perhaps she’s learning English, I thought. I leaned in a bit. There weren’t any pictures on the page, so maybe she’d progressed to the mid-range list.

Perhaps she works at a publishing house and was reading some of the back catalogue.

Or maybe she’d picked up the book for her own child and wanted to give it a read before giving it to them. Maybe they were doing a project on frogs and their habitats that she was going to help with.

Speculating about other people’s lives helps make a bad transit ride bearable.

We came into the station, the doors opened and I was jostled by carelessly flung backpacks and pointy elbows. She got up to leave.

“Would you like to take this seat?” she asked me.

“Sure. Thanks!” I said, pleased to exchange courtesies with a stranger on the subway.

I sat down – but she didn’t get off. She grabbed the subway pole I’d just been holding on to.

“I hope you’re getting off at the next stop,” I said.

“Oh, don’t worry, I’m getting off soon enough,” she smiled.

It was then I realized in horror – she thought I was pregnant! That’s why she gave me the seat – so me and my unborn child wouldn’t be jostled and elbowed.

But you see, it was just a cold day and I’d folded up my bulky scarf under my coat. I was mortified.  But if I’d said to her, no, no, keep your seat, I’m not pregnant, then she would have been mortified. So, being courteous, I said nothing.

Oh well, I thought, trying not to be insulted. She was reading that children’s book. She must have had babies on the mind.

Read more Transit City posts:

Lying on the station floor

The lady with the gold ring

A reason to take public transit

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4 comments

  1. As a daily transit rider I’m often appalled by the people who DON’T stand up for pregnant, elderly and generally infirm. Last time I was on the subway with my 80 yr old mother-in-law (who walks with a stick) I actually had to ask a group of seated riders if one of them would please give her a seat.

  2. That’s a horrible story, Judy. Alas, I think your experience is far more common than mine. Courtesy sure isn’t what it used to be.

  3. Deb — that’s funny! At least you know now that a stuffed scarf is your ticket to a seat ;-) (I kid of course!)

    1. Oh but the humiliation of it all! Can you imagine her face if I’d said something?

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