Commuters’ Code of Conduct

The language of the metro is a subtle one. On the surface, it appears a wild free-for-all, in which each person elbows his way through the crowd to seize the prime leaning location or even a seat, if fortune smiles upon him. But even in the frenzy of rush hour there exists an unwritten moral code.

For all but the most aggressive seat-seekers, intention is equivalent to possession. The first to indicate an interest in a seat is the victor. The race is not won by being the first to sit, but by being the first to flinch. Once another has made a move, courtesy dictates that the competition back off, even if they have a chance of reaching the seat first.

Edge seats are preferred to middle ones, and an already-seated passenger has every right to shift to a vacated edge seat as long as a standing passenger has not already indicated her intention to sit there. Anyone sitting in a Reserved Seat must be ready to give it to someone who needs it. The quicker the better, although some try to circumvent this by appearing absorbed in their cell phone, book, or cuticles.

Certain trump cards are universally respected. Travelers with canes or crutches possess the Holy Grail — they will always have a seat. Pregnant women likewise. The fate of people with small children is decided by how pathetic they appear.

Nuance comes into play with the elderly. Some older persons, conscious of their privileged status, walk to the nearest chair and sit. If it was occupied before, it will have been vacated before their aging posterior strikes the seat.

Others, however, are less direct, creating a quandary for fellow passengers.  If a passenger makes room for a wrinkled but spry 60-year-old, the older person might respond in one of two ways. They might appreciate the gesture and sit. On the other hand, they might be insulted — after all, 60 is indeed the new 40.

The best approach is to politely offer one’s seat to those people who might be in need of a place. The worst they can do is refuse, in which case, one still has a seat.


This was written in response to Writing 101, Day 8: Go to a public location and make a detailed report of what you see. The twist of the day? Write the post without adverbs.

Sorry, guys, twist ignored. I do realize the value of such an activity. I really, truly, sincerely do. Just not today. Interestingly enough, my experiment in tone here created a lot of traditionally BAD structures — passive voice, use of “to be” instead of action verbs, “they” as a gender neutral singular pronoun and general struggles with gender. 

What did you think? On the whole, did the way this was written (passive voice alert!) detract from the content or complement it?

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