Metro rid­ers stand up for what’s right

The Washington Post Sunday - - COMMUTER - Robert Thom­son

For some rea­son— maybe the heat gen­er­ated when peo­ple get pushed to­gether in­side a metal con­tainer — the topic of how to place your­self aboard a Metro­rail car gets the steam ris­ing in many rid­ers. Quite a few re­sponded tomy col­umn on pri­or­ity seat­ing that ap­peared in the Lo­cal Liv­ing sec­tion Thurs­day.

On the face of it, we’re talk­ing about the use of those in­ward­fac­ing seats near the cen­ter doors. But the ex­changes have evolved into is­sues about how peo­ple re­late to one of the few places where we’re con­fined for a while with a bunch of strangers. Dear Dr. Grid­lock:

At 78, slowed by a hip re­place­ment, I try to avoid Metro at rush hour. My rea­sons in­clude cost, pres­sure to move fast on plat­forms and stalled es­ca­la­tors, and fair­ness to those who have no choice but to travel then. But at those times when I must board a rush hour train, I’ve found that younger peo­ple read­ily re­lin­quish pri­or­ity seats when asked to do so.

I just say, “May I please claim one of those se­nior seats?” Per­haps “claim” is the mo­ti­vat­ing word, per­haps it’s the tone of voice or smile that eases the trans­ac­tion. Per­haps those seated rec­og­nize an old lady in dan­ger of top­pling into their laps. What­ever the rea­son, some­one al­ways stands so that I may sit. In re­turn, I ex­pressmy thanks and try to pay their kind­ness for­ward.

And no, I’m not at all em­bar­rassed to request a seat, know­ing that I paid my standee dues in years past.

— Carol McCabe, Re­ston

Mak­ing choices

Dear Dr. Grid­lock:

Years ago, be­fore Metro rail came tomy area, I would sit in the in­ward-fac­ing seats on Metrobuses, for the sake of ease of en­trance and exit. And I felt safe. A sud­denly stop­ping bus could throw one for­ward to­ward the stain­less steel bars at the back of the seat in front.

There were no signs di­rect­ing rid­ers to give those in­ward seats to older peo­ple or peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

When Metro rail was avail­able to me, I used the same

It’s hard to imag­ine that a rider sit­ting in one of the seats marked for se­niors and peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties wouldn’t yield on sight to our writer, but don’t you like the tone of the request? It’s a “ trans­ac­tion,” be­tween two peo­ple, rather than a de­mand. Yet it is re­in­forced with a po­lite ref­er­ence to the rules gov­ern­ing the use of the seats.

Oth­ers wrote in to ex­plain their choices of seat­ing on tran­sit. seats for the same rea­son— and still do. I hope I see needy rid­ers, or that they an­nounce them­selves. But I still pre­fer those in­ward-fac­ing seats and wish there were more, for those who don’t need them but do pre­fer them.

— Don­ald Sch­wab, Ar­ling­ton Dear Dr. Grid­lock:

I’m writ­ing be­cause no one in your dis­cus­sion has men­tioned a rea­son, which I ex­pect is com­mon, that peo­ple other than the el­derly or dis­abled sit in pri­or­ity seat­ing: It has noth­ing to do with con­ve­nience; it has to do with pain.

I am tall. If I sit in the for­ward-or back­ward-fac­ing seats, my knees are jammed painfully up against the seat in front of me, un­less I’m lucky enough to bag the front-row seat. So, yes, I tend to sit on the side­way-fac­ing seats and take my chances that some­one will come along who needs it, in which case I of­fer up the seat.

— Lisa Daniel, Bethesda Dear Dr. Grid­lock:

One ex­pla­na­tion for peo­ple sit­ting in the in­ward-fac­ing seats that I have not seen in your col­umn is that those of us who tend to have mo­tion sick­ness do bet­ter in the mid­dle of the car fac­ing in­ward so we don’t have the pass­ing scenery in our pe­riph­eral vi­sion.

I sit in those seats, though I don’t take the ones with the pri­or­ity sign if I can avoid it, and try towatch at ev­ery stop to see if some­one com­ing in should be of­fered mine.

Sit­ting there al­lows me to read on my 35-minute ride. The next best op­tion is to sit in a for­ward-fac­ing aisle seat and an­gle my­self in­ward, so I don’t get the view from the win­dow on the side. I don’t ride back­ward at all; I stand if that’s all that’s avail­able.

— Maida Schifter,

Sil­ver Spring

A guy thing?

Dear Dr. Grid­lock:

I couldn’t re­sist pass­ing along my own story of rid­ing Metro­rail on crutches — with a bro­ken an­kle — for six weeks. As a male inmy early 40s at the time, I was of­fered, with­out fail, a seat by fe­male rid­ers span­ning the age range ev­ery sin­gle day I rode to work down­town.

Not once did a male rider make such an of­fer.

— Casey Dinges, Fair­fax Dr. Grid­lock also ap­pears Thurs­day in Lo­cal Liv­ing. Com­ments and ques­tions are wel­come and may be used in a col­umn, along with the writer’s name and home com­mu­nity. Write to Dr. Grid­lock at TheWash­ing­ton Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. By email: dr­grid­lock@wash­post.com. His blog: wash­ing­ton­post.com/ dr­grid­lock. On Twit­ter: dr­grid­lock.

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