On the packed train to London this morning I counted four free
seats in the carriage. These weren't filled as people sitting on
the outer seats, pretending to make business calls ("Hi, Rodney?
Hi. Hi…. Yar, yar no it went swell, just swell. The China deal went
fine…") or frantically typing a last-minute PowerPoint
presentation, were refusing to move over. A lady wearing a 'Baby On
Board' badge (heavily pregnant) joined us at East Croydon. And
whaddaya know? No one immediately got up. From my limited view,
face squashed against the door glass and straddling a stranger's
suitcase, I saw an elderly woman shakily give up her seat, whilst
all the men carried on typing or talking to Rodney.
Now, I'm all for equality. I think it shouldn't just be down to
men to give up their seats or hold doors or generally be polite; my
example just points out a lack of public transport etiquette. Oh,
and also, I'm not convinced that having a laptop or making a
business call to any country means you have the right to be a
seat-hogger. If anything, you will be target for pickpockets...
But it's not just the trains where this battle for chivalry is
fought. I was at a restaurant recently and a man opened the door to
leave just as a lady was entering. Instead of holding the door open
in a 'ladies first' fashion, he went straight through. The lady,
clearly offended, entered and then proceeded to tell a man, who
offered her his seat in the waiting area, that "I don't need your
seat just because I'm a woman. That's ridiculous!" Hold on there,
lady; you just got a cob on when the door wasn't opened for you.
You can't have your cake and eat it.
Do women expect gentlemanly behaviour, even now? The fight for
equal rights for women battles on and, if we are to no longer be
'the second sex', we need to shape up and realise men ain't the
only door-holders. I hold doors open for men all the time,
sometimes I even get a "cheers sweetheart" and that makes me smile.
On the flipside though, I hardly ever get thanked by women when I
hold the door open. Maybe my scruffy appearance means they think
I'm the door-hop, I don't know, but what I do know is manners cost
nothing. Whether you're a man or a woman, general manners and
etiquette should apply across the board. It is obvious that a
pregnant lady or an elderly person will need to sit down more often
than the rest of us and that should not be about gender politics,
that should be about good manners and common-sense.
The moral of the story is we shouldn't expect chivalry from men,
we should expect manners from all. So next time you're on the train
and some 'gentleman' is making a conference call to Australia, ask
him to move over. If a businesswoman looks out the window instead
of giving up her seat for a lady with a bump, remind her she's a
woman too. Oh, and if you get wolf whistled at by builders, whistle
back. A few puzzled faces are always fun.