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R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.

2005-10-31 - 2:26 p.m.

Today two women offered me seats on the bus. This made me realize that, on the rare* occasion Iíve been offered a seat, itís always, always, always been women that did the offering. The first one timidly asked if I wanted a seat and I jauntily replied that I was fine, but the second one stood up and brooked no argument with a ďSit down! Iím getting off soon anyway.Ē

I found out after the fact that she, in fact, was 3 months pregnant herself. In the few minutes we chatted she mentioned that hardly anyone gave her a seat in Ottawa during her last pregnancy, but that in Europe men had sprang up from their seats for her the instant she set foot on public transportation. I noted my observation that it had always been women whoíd offered their seats to me and you know what? In the 9 months of her last pregnancy, one man had offered her a seat once, and that was in the last week she worked before going on maternity leave.

What, exactly, is up with that?

Iím not here to man-bash at all, and have always appreciated it when members of the opposite sex (or members of the same sex for that matter) have shown me courtesy, which I acknowledge has been many times over the years. But why is it that men in Ottawa, so far, have sat mutely in the Priority Seating areas on all the buses Iíve been on while women have offered to give up their seats? This is a simple fact. And I have no answer to this question. Many men I know would protest that theyíd give up their seat in a heartbeat in a similar situation, and I believe them, yet that hasnít been my experience with men on the bus who are strangers to me.

A (seemingly unrelated) confession: When I was little Ė maybe 6 or 7 Ė I went to Scotland to visit my grandparents. Back in those days it seemed like it was easy to find change lying around. People didnít always take their quarters from payphone change-returns, and there were always coins to be found in supermarkets near the cash registers. When my sister and I were waiting near the check-out at a grocery store in Scotland, an elderly woman dropped a couple of small coins. She looked down, looked at us, and looked down again, then left. As soon as she was gone my sister and I pounced gleefully on the change, then we dashed to tell our parents about how this old woman had dropped it and just left it there. To this day I remember the guilt I felt when my horrified father explained to us that some elderly people just couldnít stoop down to pick up things like small coins from the floor and that we should have picked it up for her. Did I say remember the guilt? Heck, I still feel guilty, even though I know I just didnít know any better. Still, thatís the kind of basic courtesy I want to instill in my kids. They may need some lessons along the way, but I still hope theyíll get it eventually, like I think I did.

One theme Iíve really noticed repeating in my writing lately, as Iíve struggled to figure out what values to pass on to my children, is respect. Iíd like to think that any child I raise would give up a seat on the bus to someone who needed it more than they do.

Clearly itís rare because Iím still so slender (for an almost-6-month pregnant person) that it must not be obvious that Iím even pregnant. And if you buy that, Iíve got this great bridge for saleÖ

Seriously though, some outfits hide it more than others and with a couple of bulky, fall-chill-combating layers on Ė including a coat or a jacket Ė itís not always easy to tell. In just pants and a shirt, however, thereís no mistaking my gravid state.

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