A Genius Way to Cut Down on Decisions

September 30, 2015

One recent afternoon, my colleagues and I were talking about the NYC subway. We grumbled about the crowds and sweaty summer commutes and delays and rats. We also admitted that the NYC subway is faster than getting around by car (mostly), relatively inexpensive, and the main mode of transportation for all of us.

Then someone asked, “When do you give up your seat?” This question sparked a lively debate and got a number of different responses.

-Kids under five? Sure.

-People with disabilities? Definitely.

-Elderly? We went back-and-forth on the meaning and implied age of elderly, and decided that someone who looks 70ish can have a seat.

-A middled-aged woman carrying grocery bags? No.

-Able-bodied people your own age? Never.

And one that we all agreed on: pregnant women; everyone in my office will offer their seat to a pregnant woman.

We were all in agreement when a male colleague of mine, let’s call him Jack, asked, “And what if I can’t tell if someone is actually pregnant, do I still offer? What if they’re not pregnant and totally offended that I thought they were? I potentially just ruined someone’s day!”

“FOOD BABY,” my other colleague said, jokingly.

Jack continued, “This is why, for the past year or so, I always stand on the subway. I never have to guess whether or not someone is pregnant. I never have to awkwardly look at a woman’s belly. Whenever I step onto the subway, I know I’m just not going to sit.” He went on to explain that if a subway car is nearly empty and there isn’t a chance that he’ll be presented with a situation where he has to decide to give up his seat or not, then he might sit. But, mostly, he doesn’t sit on the subway.

He completely removed this potential decision making scenario from his lifestyle; it never has to take up space in his brain. It never occurred to me to do that.

This very same day–no kidding, on my commute back to Brooklyn, a mother and her teenage daughter were sitting on the subway. It was at the end of rush hour and crowded, so I stood. And a woman who looked pregnant–but maaayyybbe wasn’t–with a little belly got on the train and stood beside me a few feet from the mother and daughter.

After a few minutes, the teenage daughter looked up and saw the maybe-pregnant woman standing near her. She leaned over to her mom and must have whispered something to the effect, “Is she pregnant?” The mom looked up from her phone, looked at the maybe-pregnant woman’s belly, looked at her face, then back at her belly, and then nodded. The daughter looked unsure but then offered, “Would you like to sit down?” And the maybe-pregnant lady said, “No, thank you,” with a slight smile on her face.


(Image via HuffPost.)



Leave a Comment

Blogmilk | Brandi Bernoskie