Today, a stranger in New York shamed me for refusing to give up my train seat to a child. And I can’t figure out if this is a cultural difference – if Australians just have different seat etiquette rules– or whether I’ve inadvertently been acting like a jerk on public transport my entire life.
Here’s how the seat-shaming incident began. I was sitting on the subway, reading a book in a minding-my-own-business-like manner, when commuters started packing in as we approached Times Square.
I looked up and noticed a blonde woman in her mid-30s giving me some serious side-eye.
I glanced around to make sure I wasn’t doing anything offensive. My bag was surreptitiously tucked under my feet, so I wasn’t taking up more than my fair share of space. I also wasn’t clipping my nails, sporting some funky BO, or blasting music from a set of portable speakers (although God knows enough people do all three on the New York subway.)
So I wasn’t sure why she was giving me serious scowl-face, but I figured maybe she’d just experienced a spot of indigestion or been asked to work a weekend shift. Fair enough.
I then noticed the blonde woman had a child with her, who looked about six years old. He was grabbing onto a pole near the train entrance and babbling away to his mum about some show they’d apparently just seen.
The woman continued with her glowering until she finally spoke.