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Jewish World Review Nov. 25, 2003 / 30 Mar-Cheshvan 5764

Mark Bazer

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Consumer Reports

Hell on wheels — in search of a do-gooder | The Good Lord smiled upon me yesterday as I boarded my packed rush-hour bus: Right in front of me was an empty seat. I wiped off the McNuggets sauce on it and settled in for a relaxing ride.

After the third stop, I saw something that just about broke my heart. An elderly woman had boarded and was trying her darnedest to hold on to a pole, her cane, her groceries and her inhaler. You could tell she was having a rough go of it, and all I could think was, "Why won't anybody give up his or her seat?"

Of course, normally, I'd have given up mine, but I was sitting in the first seat on the right side, and I knew it'd be my responsibility to take the wheel should something happen to the driver.

I tried to forget this unfortunate situation and instead began to plan my workout routine for later that night at Bally. But my eyes kept fixating on the poor, old woman. After 15 minutes, I figured, what the heck. The driver looked healthy, and to assume this woman couldn't handle the wheel was just plain ageist. "Excuse me, ma'am," I said, and began to get up.

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But then I noticed she was wearing what looked to be very comfortable shoes - the kind I'd love to wear to work if I could, instead of the tight, blister-inducing pair I had on. I sat back down, saying, "Oh, I just wanted to compliment you on your shoes."

But the bus was stop and go, and pretty soon, this brittle lady fell on her back and was sprawled out on the aisle. "The poor dear," I thought. "Her comfy shoes aren't helping now." But, still, none of my selfish fellow seated passengers would budge.

As for me, well, I was waiting for someone a little less exhausted to get up first. I had had the workday from hell. First there was something wrong with my order, then my iTunes player started freaking out, and it took me about two hours worth of e-mail debate to convince my college friends that a cruise was a bad idea for our spring trip. Man, did I feel for this ancient, weak grandmother, but at least she wasn't 9-to-5ing it anymore.

I tried to forget about her and concentrate on my own needs for a change, but at the next stop, a seat toward the back next to a very attractive woman opened up, and all I could think about was: Here's this octogenarian's chance!

But with all the jerks in this city, there was no way she was going to make it to the seat before someone else claimed it. This was my opportunity to show everyone a thing or two about human decency. I sprinted back to the seat, wiped off the McNuggets sauce - and sat down to watch a most unfortunate incident.

A 20-year-old had snuck into my old seat before the lady could claim it, and now, to add insult to injury, this punk was gleefully eating, drinking and radio-playing. Meanwhile, the woman now had nothing to hold onto, and she went flying down the aisle to where I was sitting. Alas, I had stubbed my toe during my sprint to my new seat and was in no shape to stand unless, well, unless I had a cane. But what was I going to do? Steal this little old lady's cane?

Fifteen minutes later, I still couldn't shake my thoughts of this elderly woman, who was now lying in front of me. I knew then that I had been chosen for a higher purpose than sitting. I got up, offered up my seat, rang the bell, got off the bus and walked the five feet to my apartment, disgusted at my fellow man all the way.

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10/28/03: I just made a complete idiot of myself on sports talk radio
10/21/03: Dry-cleaning my mental problems away
10/14/03: This is not a bill
10/07/03: The card that gave me a life suddenly expired
10/01/03: How to abruptly quit your job in style

© 2003, TMS