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Wednesday, October 05, 2005
On being polite
Yesterday while riding the bus to school I witnessed a conflict between an old man and a girl. It all started when she got up her chair, getting ready to step out at the next stop. He sat on her place and started making comments on youth, on how she was so impolite and did not stand up earlier to give him his seat. The girl protested, saying she didn’t see him and that he didn’t say anything about it. He replied she should have looked and that she did the same with an old woman, pretending not to see her.

At a certain moment of this fight, the old man threatened he will grab her by her pants and throw her out of the bus and actually started pulling her arm, calling her names. At this time, she fought back, starting to swear, and this was the moment the crowd started being on her side.

I was on no side, as the old man should have just stopped at a certain point. As far as I know, being polite is a matter of choice and forcing it on people never works. Yes, maybe the girl should have used different words, but when someone starts pulling your arm really hard and threatens to throw you out of the bus, is it a really good time to worry about proper speech?

And then the crowd…Hardly one person was heard saying something to the old man when he was abusing the girl, but everybody had something to say on her swears. And another amazing thing: old people in general are very bold when lecturing girls that don’t stand up to give their seat, but boys hardly ever get the same treatment, as they are more dangerous. Moreover, men in their 40s really have nothing to say about them sitting when women their age or older are standing.

I really thing we should apply the same standards for everyone, at every age. If you spent your life sitting when women were standing, why do you suddenly expect a girl to be nice to you when you get older? And shouldn’t boys and young men be the first to stand and only then girls, if we follow the rules of being polite?

To me it’s disgusting anyway when old people start to lecture, as usually they pick someone shy and who was paying attention to something else, when the bus is most crowded and the last thing on their mind is who needs their sit. Funny, I have never seen anyone saying no if the old person, instead of shouting and patronizing younger people simply asked to be given that seat! Yes, sometimes young people do feel sick and need to sit, yes, old people are not their major concern all of the time…But we should really find a middle way instead of this bus fights and we should really start being just about being polite. This also goes both ways.
posted by Alina @ 6:49 AM  
  • At 10/05/2005 7:11 AM, Blogger bart said…

    hi kayla,

    what a wonderful exercise in practical ethics, besides that it leaves you too ashamed for words about the impoliteness of some people. Part of the problems also lies in power issues, some people get into trouble whilst others don't... why? (just wondering...)

    keep well..

    (p.s. try Blogger's word verification tool, it helps...)

  • At 10/05/2005 1:02 PM, Blogger George Hari Popescu said…

    In Nordic countries, it is impolite to offer the seat to elder people, it's like saying "hey, you're dying, at least grab a seat".

    Anyway, everybody in Romanea should have a defense spray. And this looks like an occasion for the girl to use it on the man.

  • At 10/05/2005 1:59 PM, Blogger Adam said…

    Sounds like a case of double standards. Must be a grumpy old man who woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day.

  • At 10/05/2005 2:39 PM, Blogger Therisa said…

    Is it a crime in Romania to grab someone and threaten them? In the U.S., this would be assault and battery. It was also illegal in Michigan until recently (and still is in some states) to swear in front of women and children. I think this old creep should be arrested. But maybe it's not against the law there?

  • At 10/05/2005 4:21 PM, Blogger Alina said…

    Bart, I am glad you liked my exercise. As for the word verification, I hate it! So I'd rather delete comments...:)

    George, the spray is not a bad idea. But it shouldn't get to that, in a perfect world anyway.

    He probably was, Adam. I do not say she did ok to swear, but in some cases it is a normal reaction.

    Therisa, is not really legal, but it is hard to prove such an abuse here. Especially when the whole bus is against you swearing more than they are agains you getting maltreated.

  • At 10/05/2005 4:46 PM, Blogger Bokbok said…

    I do give up my seat to weak and elder people, pregnant women or disabled persons. But that old man didn't seem to be that fragile to me, not only he threatened the girl, he actually tried to grab her. If I were that girl, I won't regret I didn't give up my seat to him.


  • At 10/05/2005 4:50 PM, Blogger Alina said…

    Boks, me either! And I really don't understand this way of thinking - young people are not obliged to stay on watch and see if there aren't any needy older people. Sometimes you take advantage on the ride to catch up on your reading and you focus on that! They should understand that asking nicely can get them a lot further.

  • At 10/05/2005 4:51 PM, Blogger Alina said…

    I have to say, I am so afraid of such an emabarrasing situation that even if I am reading, every now and then I look around in order to avoid a lecture.

  • At 10/05/2005 10:28 PM, Blogger bart said…

    hehe... don't worry my dear, just go with the flow and trust your own intuition, you'll do just fine :D

  • At 10/05/2005 11:16 PM, Blogger Taher said…

    i think that there is a rule said that
    we must respect the olds and deal kindely with kids
    i guess those words directed mainly to youth!!!

  • At 10/06/2005 12:43 AM, Blogger tota said…

    it's just such a contradict .. that old man is not such a civilized person to grab a girl from her hand in front of ppl & threaten her to be thrown from the bus ... and then asks ppl to be civilized when treating him !!

  • At 10/06/2005 6:07 AM, Blogger Alina said…

    Yeah, Bart, I will trust my instinct! That's why I prefer the subway - less older people to worry about! :)

    Taher, it's more like a guidline, not a rule. But we all try to live by it. But you cannot have double standards and this rule as you call it hardly is reason enough to abuse someone.

    Yes, Tota, it is a contradiction. But ppl often expect more from others than they expect from themselves.

  • At 10/07/2005 4:31 PM, Anonymous angelium said…

    what a weird old man! he has a right 2 be angry(she's impolite in his point of view), but should he express it in such an awful manner??? grab the girl???? would he be happy if his daughter or grand daughter was in that girl's situation??? i guess people don't put them selves in other's shoes before they act...

  • At 10/07/2005 10:08 PM, Blogger Alina said…

    True, Angelium, they rarely do that...Maybe that would he a good solution to a lot of incidents.

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Name: Alina
Home: Bucharest, Bucharest, Romania
About Me: "This is my church. This is where I heal my hurts". It's also where I feel free and my preferred means of expression.
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