Tag Archives: bus

Sitting at the Front of the Bus

No, sorry, this isn’t about Rosa Parks, nor is it a riff on the great Otis Redding song, although I listened to his greatest hits this morning. This post is about a far more quotidian subject, namely my daily commute.

Every day I take the express bus downtown to my office. Here in San Francisco, express buses are double-length, with some seats running along the walls and other seats perpendicular to the walls. The first several seats, 10 or so, are all along the walls, and they are all meant to be given up to elderly or handicapped passengers. In fact, a big blue sticker above these seats clearly states that:

Federal law mandates that the front seats of the bus be given up for seniors and persons with disabilities. Please do not sit in those seats if a senior or person with a disability needs a seat.

The express bus is a commuter bus, so there are almost never elderly or handicapped passengers. 99% of the passengers are healthy yuppies heading to work; therefore it would be silly to leave those front seats empty, waiting for some Nana who will never board the bus.

However, I find it interesting that it is nearly always women who sit in these seats. Men will move to the back, standing if the bus is full, rather than sitting in the front seats. Women, on the other hand, often don’t even look to the back; if the front seats are open, they plop their apple-shaped derrieres right down.

I’m not sure of the reason for this disparity, but let me throw out a few possibilities:

  • Women wear high heels and want to sit down as soon as possible
  • Men are afraid of breaking the rules
  • A man knows that if a senior actually boards, he will be expected to give up his seat before a woman, and he doesn’t want to hassle with the mid-ride change
  • Women internalize that one day they will be pregnant, and these seats thus will be reserved for them

Again, nobody is actually taking seats from seniors, so there is nothing wrong with sitting in these front seats, but I find the strong gender difference to be fascinating. Any suggestions?