“Would you like a seat?”


Every once in a while, someone offers me a seat on the subway as I stand hovering over him.  I always say, “Thanks so much” and immediately sit down as soon as the good samaritan vacates the coveted space.  However, if I had a nickel for every friend who has admitted to being thrown into an existential crisis by the offer, I’d have several nickels.

It seems that in some people’s thinking, being offered a seat by a younger person is tantamount to looking old, even if you haven’t self-identified as an elderly person.  One friend said that she got on a subway one day when she thought she looked “pretty good”, was offered a seat and promptly felt miserable and insulted. She declined the offer. I told her she was pretty crazy to do that but apparently her self-image and self-esteem had been dealt a blow.

I suppose we all have our flash points. I was insulted this afternoon when I gave a dollar to a middle-aged subway musician who had lugged a keyboard aboard the #1 train and asked for money after he played.  As I handed him the dollar he said, “Thanks, grandma.” Now, I happen to be a grandmother and am delighted when my grandchildren, all 5 and under, call me “Grammy”.  But I didn’t feel old enough to be this middle-aged guy’s grandmother.  I was going to ask for my dollar back.




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