Do you give up your seat for the needy?

In one of my recent twitters, I posed the question of how to gauge an elderly person’s eligibility to be offered a seat on the MRT or bus.

Nobody answered my twitter, of course. Nobody ever responds to my twitters via Twitter.

But reader Mike M did answer the question in my blog comments, so I’m throwing it out here to get more answers from twitter-shy people.

First, the question.

How do you know who to give your seat to on the MRT or bus?

The loose guideline is what’s printed on signs: “Please offer this seat to someone who needs it more than you do.”

We know that “someone who needs it more than you do” typically refers to the elderly, the pregnant and the handicapped, and maybe little toddlers who are wont to topple over if the train brakes too fast.

[A toddler]
Photo by Beate W

Yes, most of the time, it is easy enough to identify persons belonging to the above categories.

But what about borderline cases?

You know they exist.

In the first place, how old is “elderly”? 40? 50? 60?

I don’t know what’s the average age at which a person really needs a seat each time he gets on the train.

40? 50? 60?

What makes it even more complicated is that it’s hard to tell people’s age these days because more and more people are getting younger as they get older.

[An old man]
Photo by Gustavo Bueso Padgett

Besides, some “elderly” folks take better care of their healths than us young ‘uns. They don’t go clubbing or play computer games overnight like we do, so they are able to wake up every morning at 6 am to do qigong.

[A woman practising Qigong]
Photo from Wikipedia

If old people are healthier than youngsters, do they really “need it more than we do”?

I know there is no fixed rule and we’re supposed to make intuitive judgement calls case by case. But what about offending people?

Yes, offending people.

There was this case on the MRT once: Someone had offered his seat to a pregnant lady. The lady glared at him and said, “I’m not pregnant, you doofus.” (Not in those exact words, but thereabouts.) She just happens to have a very large belly.

Photo by Jonathan Willmann

So much embarrassment is at stake when you offer your seat to the wrong person!

What if I offered my seat to this man whom I think is old because his hair is all white and his face is all wrinkled? And then he feels slighted because he is not actually old but just suffers from an unfortunate case of premature aging? And he has wrinkled skin because he sun tans too much and doesn’t use sunblock and moisturiser?

Also, there are people who are kind of prideful and hate to be thought of as weak, so if you offered your seat to them, they’d hate you.

Personally, I don’t get into situations like that very much because when I’m on the train, I’m usually buried in a book or in my DS Lite, oblivious to my surroundings.

Well, I can’t help it if I get absorbed in my own activities to relieve the boredom of commuting!! I think it’s for the better, anyway. Then I don’t have to suffer a dilemma every time a borderline case boards the train.

But I’m not 100% selfish! I have given up my seat a few times when I happened to not have a book with me and encountered clear-cut cases who really needed my seat.

What about you, then? Do you give up your seat at all and how do you deal with borderline cases?