Bums on seats
Apologies: this is the second blog in recent months on the subject of sitting down, but this is evidently a damely obsession – perhaps we’ve taken to heart Winston Churchill’s dictum ‘Never stand when you can sit down. And never sit when you can lie down.’ (Impossible to imagine Dave running the country from his bed, as Winston used to do.)
What prompted this was an incident on the bus the other day, when an elderly woman with two sticks got on, only to find the front pair of seats, clearly designated as being ‘for those less able to stand’, occupied by two boys aged about nine and five who had no intention of giving them up. When all those around him remonstrated with the older boy, he staunchly defended his younger brother’s right to a seat: ‘He’s a small little boy who needs to sit down!’ Yes – he’s a small little boy with at least 80 years of life left in his legs, while those of the elderly woman with the sticks were on their last legs, so to speak. That the older boy himself might give up his seat never even crossed his mind.
But he is not alone in his view that children have a God-given right to a seat. I’m feeling hard done by here (grumpy old woman alert!), since when I was a child it was just taken as read that adults – no doubt because of their immense age and size and ever-present fatigue – had first dibs on seats. In the case of small children, you would always be placed on a knee rather than left to occupy your own seat if an adult was standing.
Yet discussion threads on the subject maintain that children are vulnerable to ‘swaying around’ or getting shoved by a backpack unless they are given a seat. Since when has sitting down offered any kind of protection from a rucksack in the face? (As for the knee option, well, it seems it’s now not sufficiently comfortable for adults.) It’s extraordinary to think that only 170 years ago we were sending children down mines and up chimneys. That’s progress, I suppose.
Viewed from another angle, though this could be another example of a certain resentment towards people with disabilities, though a trivial one compared with what happened to Alison Harvey when she went to a concert at the Wigmore Hall. Graham Kern was standing in the space reserved for her wheelchair, but when she pointed this out, he refused to move, told her she should jolly well stand, and rammed her with her own wheelchair. At the time of writing, his trial for causing actual bodily harm continues.
And the other day, Dame Barbara came across a dog occupying three seats on the Tube. My advice on these occasions is to feign myopia and sit down anyway . . .