Thursday, May 29, 2008

Pregnancy and Public Transportation

Public transportation and pregnancy make for an odd couple. I take the bus and Metro to work. Each day I get to encounter interesting pockets of Northern Virginians. The Metro tends to be middle to middle-upper class white collar workers. The bus system has a wider variety of people, but mostly blue collar or international folks. One day during the first 15 minutes of my bus ride I heard 4 different languages before English was ever spoken! My friend Jacque put it well in saying something to the effect of, "On the Metro you see polished, pretty-face America, while on the bus you see real life.

Now that I'm visibly pregnant, it's been interesting to see how others treat me in public. For instance, almost always if I am standing on the bus, a man offers me his seat. There's a very defined sense of treating pregnant people, women with children and older people kindly on the bus.

The Metro is a different story. Only once has anyone offered me a seat on the Metro. I don't think it's that people are cold-hearted. I think they are just consumed by whatever they are reading or thinking about and it never even crosses their mind.

What's even more interesting to me is how differently I feel when someone gives up their seat for me on the Metro vs. the bus. On the bus, I am grateful and relieved. I feel like the man who gave up his seat for me is now receiving admiring looks from the other passengers. Both of our statuses are exalted in different ways. On the Metro, the one time someone gave me their seat, I was surprised to find myself a little embarrassed. I don't know if other people even noticed the man who gave me his seat. Even though he was incredibly kind about it, I felt a little ashamed. Almost as if by taking the Metro, I'm agreeing to not be treated any differently. A nagging feeling said, "If you can't make it on your own, you shouldn't be out here."

I know, I know - that's silly. It sure is interesting to see how we internalize our environment differently.

P.S. For the record, I have yet to ask someone to give up their seat for me. I've practiced several times in my head, but nothing to show for it yet. :-)

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