This morning whilst running around the house doing my usual sweeping motion to pile toys into one corner, so at least some of the room looks temporarily tidy, I half caught a piece on Lorraine (or should I say Kate Garraway) where they were inviting people to comment on a story about a pregnant lady not being given a seat on public transport. 'That old chestnut? I could write for days about that' I thought, and made a note to track down the article they were discussing, later.
With half the story in my mind, I went about my morning, writing this post in my head. I'd already decided what the article said and, more importantly, what I was going to say about it.
I was going to start by saying that whoever this person was, they were probably another country bumpkin who just doesn’t get that if you want a seat on public transport in London you have to ask for it. I thought this because I was once that pregnant country bumpkin standing around on buses, waiting for people to notice my delicate condition. I was standing for a very long time until I realised no one noticed me or my bump, and if I wanted to sit down I would have ask people to move.
Secondly, why do just pregnant women get all the press, what about everyone else? Specifically the old lady I saw on the bus the other day, with a zimmer frame and about to keel over as she was diabetic and her sugar levels had dropped (she also had sciatica, her daughter told me all of this). Not an able bodied soul in the priority seats got up to offer her their place.
Another factor I wanted to highlight was the whole fear of mistaking someone for being pregnant who isn’t. I’ve been there and it felt infinitely worst than actually having to ask someone to give me their seat or as much as the sharp pain in my heels that developed 6 months into pregnancy.
I recall that by my second pregnancy I was such a natural when it came to turfing people out of their seats on public transport, I didn't even bother getting one of those fancy 'baby on board' badges, available from TFL on application (email firstname.lastname@example.org). I was a pro at ensuring my backside was comfortably parked throughout most journeys. I wasn't always confident, I didn't always like doing it and there were times when I might have half sobbed as I muttered the words, 'Can I sit down please, I'm pregnant’. Then when I sat down, I would quite often spend the next ten minutes questioning myself over why I felt the need to use such a lowly, apologetic tone to do it.
Hence my message was to urge all you pregnant ladies out there to take courage, remember that people might just have the fear about wrongly identifying you as pregnant so make it easy for them by making the first move. It isn’t easy but no one is going to say no.
Then, finally, I found the ACTUAL article and guess what, the pregnant lady had asked for a seat and the seated said no.
I don’t mind admitting I felt a little sheepish and quite angry. This lady asked for a seat and was refused? Suddenly the bottom dropped out of my soapbox. Never once on all my escapades, even before I sported the most legitimate of bumps, had anyone ever turned down my request for a seat
There I was, all argument and no solution whatsoever. The woman had, quite proactively I thought, asked South West Trains if they might consider giving her a pass to sit in first class when the train was full. Oh the relief, a sensible solution (which could also be applicable to anyone needing priority seating i.e. elderly or disabled). Wait a second, South West Trains also said no? Apparently when you’re on a train and you feel unwell the correct procedure is to tell a guard or pull the emergency cord. Seems a little drastic, not to mention the number of people who would leap off their seats in a second, if it meant you refrained from pulling the emergency cord and bringing the train to a calamitously jolting standstill.
Growing up in Hampshire, in the days before automatic train doors, I remember South West Trains went through a phase of covering their carriage doors with stickers that read:
‘Save us time, save your time, please shut the door’ however, one sly but oddly very prolific graffiti artist couldn’t resist a minor alteration, which bearing in mind their attitude on this occasion, seems very appropriate ’Save us time, save your time, please... take the bus’.
For those who refused to give up their seats? I now feel infinitely less guilty about ignoring the old woman who approached me the other day, wanting directions, she definitely wasn’t pregnant and she wasn’t in need of a seat. Karmically speaking, I am immaculate, well almost.