Over the past year and a half, as my walking embarked on a bit of a downward spiral, I found a new “best friend:” handicapped seating on the subway. Finally, a place to call home in a crowded sardine can lurching along a bumpy ride. As long as I’m not displacing someone in need, I avidly claim my perch.
To my surprise, I’m frequently met with a recalcitrant rider reluctant to surrender their seat until discerning the precise nature of my disability. Even when I offer my legally unnecessary explanation, many a New Yorker either doubt my word or dispute my claim in groundless defiance of city ordinance. Then again, my fellow residents aren’t known for their manners let alone random acts of kindness. Seems utterly beside the point that the law’s on my side.
While I understand subway seats are zealously guarded parcels of New York City real estate, I had no idea sitting activism extended to the handicapped zone. Here’s a taste of the empathetic responses I tend to receive: you’re not pregnant, what’s your disability- that you don’t want to stand, no hablo Ingles (when I point to the bilingual sign, they suddenly lack reading comprehension).
Ultimately, I overcome this appalling behavior by morphing into a human bulldozer bludgeoning obstacles in my path. If necessary, I’ll make an example of gross misconduct or appeal to not-so-innocent bystanders when I’m getting nowhere with the offending criminal. I’ve also utilized these quintessential New York City moments as PR opportunities, handing one “gentleman” an index card urging him to “Go online, Google Dystonia, then spread awareness” though he didn’t quite get the point. Guess the subway isn’t the best venue for a personal publicity campaign!
So let’s review the basics of human etiquette: offer someone old or disabled your seat whether in the handicapped locale or not; stand up for fellow citizens who are getting the raw end of the stick; and never consider yourself in too much of a rush to assist someone in need.