Straphanging Children


A woman got on the train this morning at Borough Hall in Brooklyn with a child who was old enough to stand and hold the pole by himself. No one gave up their seat for the child, and after a few stops her son started complaining about not sitting.

He said, “Mommy I want to sit down so I can play my game.”

The woman replied, “Well no one is kind enough to let you sit down, so you are going to have to wait.”

At the next stop he asked again, and the mother directly inquired when the two people sitting closest to her were getting off the train. When they didn’t respond, she asked some other passengers and one woman curtly replied, “14th Street.”

After four more stops, her kid got the chance to sit down and play with his iPad.

Was the mother in the right for wanting her kid to have a seat, or were the passengers right in staying put?

This one always stumps me.

I get on the train in a working class neighborhood and it stays that way until the last two stops in Brooklyn, where this woman boarded with her son. Over the years, I have noticed that most of the commuters who get on at the last two stops have a lot of high-priced items attached to their bodies in the form of clothes or accessories. I have also noticed that the commuters already on the train will rarely give up seats for these passengers.

The woman with the child fit the Borough Hall stereotype. She was wearing a Michael Kors coat, fancy yoga pants, Merrell snow boots, and a huge engagement ring. I also noticed a $3,150 Louis Vuitton purse hanging from her shoulder. And yes, it was real.

Her bag alone could have paid for over two months of my rent, and her ring most likely cost more than a years worth of my rent. But I don’t begrudge this woman for having expensive things. That’s life. However, I can’t deny my fellow commuters’ complete lack of empathy for this woman and her kid.

Was it because of the class difference? Did the kid really deserve a seat over a person on their way to a 9 hour work day, so he could play his video game? Was the woman too pushy to ask what stop people were getting off the train? Was it offensive to comment aloud that no one was nice enough to give up their seat?

There is no one size fits all answer for the scenario this morning, but I enjoyed pondering it while I traveled.

It’s fun to watch people who wouldn’t know each other in real life, rub elbows in real-time. It’s often prickly, full of assumptions, and somewhat entertaining.

At the end of the day, everyone just wants theirs.


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