Amateur Sociology

I take the train to and from work every day. I’ve been riding the train daily since grade 10, so for more years than I want to count.  Calgary Transit sucks pretty bad.  It’s insufficient for a major city, I’m pretty sure it’s the most expensive per ride system in the country, and the light rail train system falls apart every time it snows more than 2mm.  But, it’s still better than driving in the city during rush hour.  The thought alone of having to drive downtown every day gives me an ulcer.  When the train works, it’s actually not that bad.  It’s only 25-30 minutes from my front door to my office door, on a normal day.  (We’ll ignore all the days it takes more than an hour because of who-the-hell-knows-what’s-gone-wrong-today.)  Driving would probably take longer, especially once you factor in parking downtown.  It would certainly cost more.  (Parking downtown Calgary is the most expensive in Canada, last I heard.  There are some downsides of living in a wealthy city.)

Anyway.  I spend a lot of time on the train, and also a lot of time complaining about the train.  Also, reading on the train, pretending that other people on the train don’t exist and trying to breathe through my mouth on the train.  All pretty standard transit routines, I’m sure.

But one thing I’ve been paying a lot of attention to recently is the sociology of ‘Who Will Give The Pregnant Lady A Seat’ and my findings have kind of surprised me.  I’ve been getting a seat consistently since I was about 6 months pregnant – with my belly bursting out of my ill-fitting coat.  Actually, let’s be even more accurate.  Since I was about 7 months pregnant, I have got a seat on the packed trains twice a day.  The only time no one immediately offered, I spoke up.  “Hi, I’m 8 months pregnant, can someone please give me their seats?” Two people stood up instantly. Canadians, right? It also helps that David and I generally ride the train together and our routine is that I look short and very pregnant, and David lurks until someone notices me and offers a seat.  It works pretty well.

The interesting thing who offers me a seat, and who does not.  Before I got pregnant and started paying attention to this (beyond, you know, offering pregnant ladies and old people a seat the rare time I had one), my guess about who would offer a seat would run something like: women in their 30s, women in the 40s, women in their 50s, men of any age, teenagers.  How very very wrong I would be.

The number one demographic group to offer a seat? Men between the ages of 30 and 55.  Like, by far and away the majority.  Followed by men in their early 20s.  Followed by women in their 30s, and women in their late 50s, early 60s.  Followed by teenagers.  The worst group of all?  Is absolutely women in the 40s and 50s.  They (the collective they) will often look right at my giant stomach, and then ignore me.  Unlike the men, who if they notice, will almost always immediately offer me a seat.*  It’s interesting.  The women I would expect to be most sympathetic – women who have most likely had children themselves – are the least sympathetic.  Men who are probably far removed from their hypothetical partners being in this state seem the most chivalrous.**  I’m not really sure what broad trends you could derive from this, but it does make the 45 seconds between getting on the train and someone offering me a seat more interesting.

* This is all very me me me, but when you’re short and hugely pregnant and having pelvic floor pain and have some balance problems, getting a seat on a crowded jerky stop-go train becomes a pretty overwhelming requirement for personal happiness.

** Calgary?  Is, in fairness, a fairly chivalrousness town.  You know, the kind of place where men let women enter the elevator first and hold doors.


One response to “Amateur Sociology

  1. Yes! I noticed the demographic split when I spent most a summer on crutches, commuting to work on light rail. Most days, the person who’d give up their seat would be a man over fifty. A mother once encouraged her tween daughter to push past me onto the train and grab the only free seats because “You’ll be faster than her, sweetie, now GO!”.
    As an aside, from a lurker who found you through APW, good luck in the next few weeks!

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