Take a seat

Riding buses in Israel is stressful enough without being made to feel old before my time.

Bus 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Bus 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
When I was a little girl, I remember my mother getting up for an elderly man on the bus. This made a big impression on me, especially since she did it herself and didn’t ask me to.
Maybe it was because I was so impressed or maybe because she started to ask me, but eventually I started offering my seat on the bus to people older than me.
Now, 45 years later, people have started offering their seat to me on buses. This doesn’t bother me if they’re obviously in their teens or 20s. But when a woman who appeared to be 70 offered me her seat on the bus one day after work, I didn’t like it. I tried to be gracious; I told her it was okay and that I wasn’t older than her. And I tried to console myself with the fact that sometimes, I forget how old I am and almost get up for people my age.
Then the next morning, the bus driver gave me a senior ticket. I shot darts at him (figuratively), and he claimed it was because of the amount of change I had given him. Unfortunately this wasn’t the first time.
I’m 52. People are often surprised to hear this; they say I look to be in my 40s.
A senior ticket starts at 60. Well, you can do the math.
Although it could be that some of these drivers don’t have the greatest perception.
I was once on a bus where I was offered a senior ticket and then a few minutes later, when some obviously elderly, 80-something people got on, the driver wouldn’t give them a senior discount until they showed ID.
This brings me to the two pet peeves I have on buses: Young people who don’t get up for the elderly, pregnant ladies and people loaded down with bags; and bus drivers who ask women in their 40s and 50s if they want a senior ticket. Once, I even wrote a complaint email to the bus companies, asking them to inform their drivers that women don’t like to be asked if they want a senior discount – especially if they’re a decade shy of that privilege. I told them that women would ask if it was relevant.
I don’t think it helped. Maybe the bus companies have more things to worry about like security issues. But riding buses in Israel is stressful enough without being made to feel old before my time. And it’s tiring enough that older people shouldn’t have to stand while younger people look out the window, allowing 70- year-old women to offer their seats to 50-year-olds.
It shouldn’t matter, of course. But most of society is still youth-oriented. And since I work in a medical company that markets Botox as well as other rejuvenating items, it’s a sensitive topic.
I think what I’m advocating is sensitivity and courtesy – perhaps walking a fine line, but making an attempt to appreciate how the other person might feel. In crowded city buses, at the beginning and end of each day, you might just make somebody’s day by giving up your seat – or not.