THE PROTOCOLS OF SEAT OFFERING ETIQUETTE
While her first impression of North America is that it feels like being in a Hollywood movie, she soon realizes that she inhabits the establishing shots where nothing really happens. And just like in the movies, English is shouted out dramatically and nonsensically around her but whenever someone says, “you mean” she hears her name and is startled at familiarity in such a foreign place.
Yumi misses Japan.
She sits at the front of the bus with her English homework on her lap, wondering whether or not she should offer up her seat to an older looking man in his fifties. His arm hangs from one of the silver bars running the length of the bus. He holds on with such force that the veins of his hand seem to have rooted themselves in the bar. She sits beneath his branched form and puzzles over the polite thing to do.
A man at the back of the bus sees her and relocates himself to within earshot of her position.
“Don’t worry about getting up. You’re in the right here. You’ve got every right to go on sitting.”
Her wide-eyed gaze flitters between this interloper and empty spaces around her. A couple of people on the bus stare at him in annoyance.
“Don’t worry. I saw that you were wondering what to do here. You were looking at this gentleman but there’s nothing to worry about.” He looks for reassurance from her but gets nothing and so he decides to explain further.
“Well you might be wondering if age takes precedence over gender in the situation, but basically if you are seated already then the onus is on the person standing to request the seat. That’s in a situation where you are on equal footing regarding points.” He waits for her to acknowledge him but now that the dominoes of his theory are falling in his head, there’s no stopping the neural connections from firing all the way through to the end of his philosophy.
“Well there are points. If you are female, old, handicapped, injured or pregnant you get one, but they can also add up, creating a hierarchy of who should get the courtesy seat. If you’re injured and pregnant, well that gives you three points. If you’re a blind, pregnant woman with a broken arm, well I don’t even know how many points that is but you are at the top of the courtesy seat pyramid. You’ll get a seat.”
The older gentleman uproots his veins from the bar and gets off the bus. The theorist stands directly in front of Yumi, trying to make her understand. She, however, is terrified, having no idea what he is going on about.
“Well I’m writing a book on all of this and I think if I can get enough testimonials from people that it’s helped, I’m sure the transit authorities will buy it and provide everyone with a copy. Would you like to write down and sign a statement of how this theory of seat offering has helped you ?”
The last domino is down and he waits for her response. He doesn’t feel compelled to do anything else but wait with his head full of fallen dominoes.
“Sign me up for fifty,” comes a shout from the back of the bus.
“You mean, you want to buy it ?” His eyes come to life.
She hears what sounds like her name from the lips of this gibberish-spouting madman and wonders what genre of movie she’s in.