I had the joy of catching the train into London on Monday. Being 30 weeks pregnant, the thought of pushing my way onto a busy train, finding a seat and then navigating my way through the London underground with a million impatient commuters was filling me with dread. I have got to the point in my pregnancy where my hefty bump is beginning to take its toll on my lower back – I can’t stand for more than fifteen minutes without feeling like I have walked the marathon or getting leg cramp. I spent the whole night before worrying about the thought of having to stand for an hour on the train if all the seats were already taken. My husband assured me that someone would spot the bump and let me sit, but I wasn’t so sure; I was dubious – are people as considerate in the city?
I was over the moon to find that the train I caught at 9.12am was pretty empty and so finding a seat was a breeze. However, once I was in London, the underground was a different story. The doors to my first tube train opened to reveal a tightly packed carriage of people. I quickly scanned the seats for an empty one, but to no avail. I headed toward the back of the carriage where the four ‘Priority Seats’ were positioned, each boasting a bright blue sticker which explained that these seats were for the ‘less able – disabled, pregnant or less able to stand’. I hovered by these seats, occasionally placing my hand on the lower part of my back to emphasise my bump and signal the fact that my back was pretty damn sore. Was anyone going to notice, or even care? On one side was a young couple in their late twenties. The girl was flicking through a magazine and didn’t even look up, the guy just glared with a vacant expression and continued to tap his foot to the music he was listening to on his headphones. On the opposite side was an older man, late forties, in a suit, and a woman with a large suitcase. The man briefly glanced up – this it is, I thought, surely any man of this generation would give his seat up for a pregnant woman? But no, he looked back down and continued to flick though his sodding newspaper. It was the woman with the suitcase who noticed me and immediately jumped up, offering me her seat and telling me that she has children and so knows what it’s like to be carrying around that extra weight all day. I thanked her whole heartily, shooting the newspaper man an icy stare as I sat. My next train was pretty much the same – Priority Seats mostly full of middle-aged men and it was the one young Asian girl who jumped up to let me sit. The men just watched as she gripped hold of the rail and joined the other standing passengers.
So is chivalry dead? Are the times when a man would willingly give up their seat for a woman gone? Or is it just the City which has killed all signs of the true gentleman with its rat-race culture? I honestly thought that if anyone was going to give up their seat on that first train, that it would have been the man with the newspaper. When the woman jumped up, dragging her huge suitcase with her, I presumed that he would follow, letting us both sit, like a true gentleman should. Or am I being too old fashioned? Sexist even? Maybe all of the ‘equal rights’ which us women have pushed onto society have taken their toll and men now expect us to lie in the bed we have made for ourselves. We can open our own doors, stand on a train and walk our own backsides home in the rain. It is a shame and I truly hope that the age of the gentleman is not dying – I at least will be bringing my own son up to be one and I hope other mothers do as well. Long live ‘ladies first’!