Moral dilemma number 362.5.
The blind man.
Not the one in the joke who goes to the nunnery to fit blinds and winds up being allowed into the bathroom while a nun is in the bath.
Not that one.
A real one.
You are on the underground and you have watched as a lady immediately offered her seat to a man who just got on carrying a white stick, wearing dark glasses and occasionally singing ‘For once in my life...’
Okay, he wasn’t singing.
But he was banging his white stick about.
Anyway, he bumped into a spot in the middle of the carriage and straight away the lady had jumped up and offered him her seat. We all heard him decline. He was more than clear that he wanted to stand.
So here is your moral dilemma.
At the next stop a seat right in front of him became available when its occupant got off the train. Right there, in front of him and near to me.
But did he still want to stand?
I hovered, not completely sure what to do. Two people came over making a bee-line for it only to abort at the last minute when they saw the guy and turn around. People are quick to berate us commuters for being rude but in fact most people will not take a seat away from someone who more obviously needs it. One look at the man stood by the seat was enough to make them turn away.
Especially as the seat in question was a ‘priority’ seat. One of the ones clearly marked as being for disabled, pregnant or elderly folk. Those sat in priority seats are under pressure to be considerably more polite than others.
Who, in their right mind, would quietly take a designated priority seat from a blind man?
Who would be that selfish?
Well, someone had to….. Might as well be me, I guess.
I tapped him on the shoulder and told him about the seat. I reasoned that where everyone else had just assumed he wanted the seat, it was probably worth checking if he even knew it was there, being that he was blind.
“No it’s okay,” he replied, “I’ll stand”
Now that’s clear enough, isn’t it?
So I sat down. I did it, I took the seat. I’d heard him refuse two seat offers; the people in the seats directly nearby had heard him refuse two seats. This guy wanted to stand.
So why did I still feel guilty?
Because everyone else in the carriage thought I was – that’s why. Apart from those closest to us, nobody else had heard anything. But they could see me.
They saw me take the priority seat away from the blind man. They saw me push past him to get it.
They knew I was a bad man.
The people, who got on at the next stop, took one look at him, then at me and shook their heads in disgust. I wanted to shout out to them and tell them he had declined to sit. I wished I’d brought my “I’m not a git” badge. I could have flashed that at everyone.
The train continued its journey and I sat, he stood, and people glared.
What would you have done?