Putting priority back in priority seating.

I haven’t the slightest idea if this is a thing unique to Ottawa or what, but I’ve noticed no matter what the actual intent of priority seating was supposed to be, it almost always defaults to whoever someone else thinks needs it. A run I took a few days ago put this back in my head, where it sat because I’ve probably gone over it before. But it hasn’t managed to convince itself to go away yet, so here’s me.

An up front disclaimer: I’m not opposed to the idea of priority seating–I’ve taken advantage of it myself, whether it was entirely justified or not, because it’s a lot less time consuming than wandering around the back of the bus looking for a seat that already doesn’t have a butt in it. But that’s a fairly far cry from insisting I need/deserve/am otherwise entitled to it, which is not what this is about to be.

I’ve always believed priority seating on buses should be, without question, reserved for people who either can’t be standing on a bus while it’s moving or, for whatever reason–pregnancy, for example–probably shouldn’t be standing on a bus while it’s moving. Somehow, in the eyes of a lot of people, blindness ends up equating to one or both of those categories–exactly how that happens to this day still escapes me, but it happens. But I’ve had more than a few cases of people who probably have a valid reason for sitting there getting up and either moving, or clinging on to something to avoid them possibly losing their balance, just to let me have a seat. Which, usually results in a conversation not entirely unlike this.

“Really, you don’t need to get up–I’m only going a couple stops.” “Yes, but you need this more.” “I’ll be fine for a few blocks. The eyes don’t work. The legs do.” “But you shouldn’t be standing in here–you can’t see.”

And it goes through variations of that every time. Usually, unless I literally am only going like one or two stops, I end up taking the seat just to avoid a potential argument. Or, you know, possibly offending someone who thinks they’re being nice–occasionally, I do think things like that through. It just doesn’t happen all that often. But every time, I go back to wondering who comes up with the seating rules? Who actually has it decided somewhere that, say, a 50-year-old with a little trouble walking but not enough that they require something like a walker has to hand over his seat to me, just because I showed up? Perhaps more importantly, where’s a guy supposed to line up to secure his copy? Because clearly it will help in my quest to at least pretend to be something other than “that asshole next door who just refused my politically correct gesture of good will.”

I get, I suppose, why people lean more towards that–they see, not entirely incorrectly, that it’s largely reserved for the disabled. The problem comes in, though, when it gets down to your definition of disabled. It’s a given, for instance, that when someone shows up in a wheelchair, they’re getting a priority seat. Common sense, and all that. But beyond that, it gets a little blurred. A pregnant woman, for instance, may not necessarily be disabled. But should she still give up her seat to someone who just has, for whatever reason, general and overall balancing issues? And should that person give up his seat to someone who can’t see? I honestly can’t say I know the answer to any of that. But I do know on the list of people who ought be entitled to priority seating, I shouldn’t be a priority. Which is why, where it’s at all practical, I’ll keep having that conversation I summarized earlier. Because there are people who deserve and need those arrangements a lot more than an otherwise able-bodied geek. In the meantime, I’m serious about finding a copy of those rules. If I’m going to start trying to rewrite them, I may as well have a comparison.

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