As a keen student of human behaviour I’m always fascinated by people’s reactions to various stimuli. I’m still perplexed by what I witnessed on the tube from Wimbledon to Earl’s Court this morning. I’m sitting opposite a fairly scruffy 16 year old schoolboy. After tinkering with his iPod for a minute of two he puts it away in his rucksack and pulls out a biology text book and starts reading in earnest.
By Earlsfield, the train is filling up and it’s standing room only. Nose deep in my own book, I nonetheless notice the young man leap up and offer his seat to a woman standing nearby. Her reward to this young impressionable teenager for this act of kindness was an “I’m fine thanks”.
Having committed to giving up his seat he took up position near the starboard doors and watched as his seat remained empty all the way to East Putney. Several standing passengers were eyeing it nervously, but none were prepared to make a move on it.
At East Putney, as the doors opened an elderly man sitting in the seat next to the vacant one left the train, at which point the woman immediately sat down in the newly vacated seat. One of the other passengers duly occupied the boy’s seat. Meanwhile the schoolboy watched on from the sidelines, probably trying to work out why the woman had behaved like this.
It’s only as she sits down that I notice the badge she is wearing on her coat.
I don’t get it. She is clearly in the market for blagging a seat, otherwise she wouldn’t be wearing the badge. Why could she not have just rewarded the schoolboy with a smile and a thank-you and taken up occupation of his seat?
Instead her reward for his good manners and act of kindness (which let’s face it you don’t see so often these days from school kids) was a very public brush-off which has probably left the poor chap traumatised for life.