[The following is an excerpt from a collection of short stories I wrote about growing up in Boston and riding the T.]
I like my job. I’ve managed to create the perfect combination of challenge and expectation from my supervisor and slacking off on my part. However, I can’t stand traveling to work. I use the “T”, this city’s excuse for public transportation, and honestly it’s a trip. It really is. If I get to the train station early I can score a seat. This would normally be a good thing because it would ensure a comfy ride all the way to work. Except, as a young male, if you have a seat you also have an obligation to give it up at your first opportunity. Not an issue for me. I see nothing wrong with giving my seat to an elderly lady or someone, usually a young woman, with children. However, I think it’s fair to keep your seat if you have a good enough reason – like an injury.
Recently, I sprained my ankle playing football with some friends. The injury wasn’t serious I limped into the doctor’s office and was given a small, white “airbrance,” some ibuprofen, a pack of ice and told to “walk it off.” This meant that I was fine to go to work as long as I was careful to not re-injure myself. All was fine until one morning when I happened across an empty seat on the train. I sat down relieved that I would be able to take some pressure off of my foot and promptly fell asleep.
I awoke later to a sharp pain in my injured foot. Fearing the worst I snapped awake to see what was causing the pain, as a young male with a seat on the train, it was my worst fear. An old woman with a young child was standing in front of me. She and the child were holding on to the pole near my seat and the woman was casually tapping my foot with her cane. I decided to avoid confrontation. I moved my foot.
The tapping ceased momentarily and I tried to fall back asleep. Only three stops had gone by since I got on the train. The woman found my foot again and the tapping renewed. I moved it again and pretended not to notice. A woman sitting across from me sighed heavily and shook her head. I dozed a bit more until I was two stops away from my destination. More tapping, a little harder this time. I moved my foot, cleared my throat, and looked at her. She glared back at me. I would not be intimidated. A few seconds later she started tapping my foot again.
“Excuse me.” I said. She just stared at me.
“I’m sorry, maybe you didn’t realize it, but you’re tapping my foot and I’m in-" she cut me off.
“Maybe you should move then…be a gentleman.”
She spit out the word “gentleman.” I felt the urge to wipe spittle off of my jacket.
“Look I would move but it’s just…”
“Always an excuse right?” She said over me. “Chivalry must be dead ‘cause I been tapping you, trying to give you the opportunity to do the right thing but all you did was ignore me! Lord Almighty! These young men don’t have no respect and ain’t got no chivalry!” She exclaimed. Other women on the train nodded in approval and looked at me with disappointment.
“Fine!” I said. “You’re right chivalry is dead.”
I stood up and prepared to get off the train as it pulled into my stop. The brace on my ankle flashed briefly as I stood up when this happened, the little boy the woman was with brightened and began pointing at my foot.
“Gramma, Gramma. That’s the same brace I had when I broke my foot!” he said excitedly. I swung my bag onto my shoulders and limped off. I hate the train.