News - February 27, 2013

No Country for Old Men


I take the bus and train on a regular basis. Last week on my way to the town centre, the bus was nearly full and an old man, in his late seventies I guess, got on board.

I gestured to let him know he could have my seat. He glanced up at me for a moment and started to talk in Dutch. From his body language anyone could see how angry and frustrated he was. I politely asked a young man seated next to me to translate. The old man literally said: 'Who told you I am less strong and healthy than you? Did I ask you to give up your seat?'
As a regular commuter I like to think of myself as a conscientious passenger and will not think twice about offering my seat to someone older or less able-bodied, or a pregnant woman. Also whenever passengers are leaving the train or the bus, I will allow them to exit first and will support mothers with buggies on the stairs or those with heavy luggage. This was my normal life back in Ethiopia and I saw doing so as a virtue in society, and as a duty for which I never expected a thank you. But when the same thing happened again this week, this time with an old woman, it made me think. Am I just being a mug offering my seat to old people?  
Aderajew Shumet Tamirat, Ethiopian MSc student of Management, Economics and Consumer Studies