Friday, December 28, 2012

Oldsters and Cool Dudes

Just before Christmas, it happened for the first time. I didn’t exactly run for the train, but when I entered the station and heard the familiar announcement—“The next Red Line train to Braintree is now approaching”—I knew I had a chance to make it if I walked briskly.

I was one of the last people to step aboard, and despite my earlier-than-usual schedule (I was going inbound, to work), no seats were to be had in my car. I walked down the center aisle a few steps just to see if there might be some empty space somewhere, then retreated to reclaim my original position near a pole and a door.

A young woman (by young I mean, twenties) sat in the first seat, just to my left.  Out of the corner of my eye, I sensed her look at me once, then a second time. I glanced down and my gaze met hers. The sweet young thing looked up at me and asked, innocently, “Do you want to sit?”

Do I want to sit? How the hell old do I look? That’s what I wanted to ask. But instead, I said, a bit too quickly, “Oh, no, thanks. That’s okay.”

And so passed my first experience on the train as an old person.

Looking back, I have had young men offer me a seat here and there from time to time. But this was the first instance of another woman sensing my fragility and offering some comfort. Part of me wanted to sock her. The other part really, really wanted to sit down.

The whole incident made me reminisce about my own youth, and the many times I offered my seat to an elder (but, man, is it scary to think I'm an elder).  Rarely did anyone accept the offer, and now I sort of know why. No one wants to appear needy or vulnerable. No one wants to owe anyone anything, or be indebted to them. 

Which is why I will always regard the cool dudes as the most kind and generous souls on any form of public transportation. The cool dudes don't ask; they just get up. They are sitting right there in front of you, so you are the only person who can possibly take their seat. They stand up, their ear buds hardly shifting, there is absolutely no eye contact. They lightly grip the pole near the door, like they are going to get off soon, anyway. They don't need to speak, their aim is true. Long may they ride.

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