Commuting Chronicles — Hard to Stand


3/22. Evening Rush Hour. Queens-bound ‘E’ Train.

On Friday, I was on the ‘E’ coming home from another day of work. Now, at the stop where I catch the ‘E’, you can rest assured that you’ll probably never get a seat in that car. I find that okay, though, because I am healthy and able to stand. When the doors closed behind me, I noticed a young woman with freckles and a blue coat standing in front of me. When I looked down, I saw she had a cane.

This is something that has always upset me. Had I been sitting, I would have definitely gotten up for her, but I was on my feet as she was. There was a young, more than able-bodied young man sitting right near where me and the girl were standing. He proceeded to stare at her cane several times throughout the non-stop express route, but not once could he think to offer his seat. At one point an older (nonetheless able-bodied) man stared at the lady with a look of pity, but got over his moment of guilt and went right on back to reading his daily paper. All the while, this poor girl is bopping, rocking, and losing her balance every time she needed to put pressure on her right leg. All I could think is, ‘Really people? Is it that hard to stand?’


Clearly, it was a feat for anyone to give a damn about this poor girl who nearly fell over a few times due to the strain of keeping her balance on a rocking express train. What was hard to stand, was watching all the comfortably seated commuters staring at this young lady struggling under the weight of her backpack and the unpredictable movements of the train and not thinking twice about giving up “their” seat. My stomach was turning the whole ride, I was so grateful when I finally reached my stop.

I understand that it’s a commuter train. You might have had a hellish day at work, you might have 5 kids under the age of 10 to get home to, or you might have a job where you’re on your feet all day and getting a seat during the hour commute gives you the right dose of relaxation on your way home. I get it, I’m not unreasonable. But, what’s the justification for letting some who is clearly weaker than you stand when you can afford to stand instead? If the day ever comes that you have a broken ankle, a sprained muscle or crutches or anything like that, how would you feel if everyone stared at you with pity but left you to stand in discomfort. I think it is essential that humans don’t allow themselves to get too far removed from their humanity. It’s important to help when you can. It feels nice to do and it ensures that we live in world where people look out for each other as opposed to a cutthroat world where everyone looks out for themselves.

The young lady in the blue coat represents more than herself. She represents elderly people, military veterans, the disabled, pregnant women and all the other people we should be watching out for. People, if they can, should always try to help another person out. It doesn’t have to be money necessarily; sometimes it’s the simple gestures that make a great difference in a persons’ life. Plus, it makes you feel good, too.

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