When Using Public Conveyances
If there is ever a test-site for manners, it is the public transportation systems of the world’s great urban centers. There, people are likely to be on their absolute worst behavior and, consequently, be in need of gracious displays of manners.
It is easy to be on good behavior at a baby shower, a funeral, or the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club; but when rushing to work on a blisteringly cold February morning, or when exhausted at the end of a rigorous day at the office, or when trying to get through a long, slow-moving queue at a security checkpoint at an international airport, many people tend to “relax” their normal standards of good manners and assume personalities somewhat like food-aggressive animals. Gentlemen, however, do not. To the contrary, true gentlemen look forward to such situations so that they may don their imaginary superhero capes—emblazoned with a big letter “M” (for manners, of course!)—and go about the business of combating bad behavior by showing good behavior. Class, it is sometimes said, is grace under pressure, and true gentlemen thrive under pressure-ridden circumstances.
In train stations, in elevators, at bus terminals, in airport concourses, on subway platforms, on ferry docks, and at taxi stands, for example, a gentleman is bound to encounter people in need of courtesy. Unfortunately, the “less refined” feel little or no obligation to total strangers in public places, but such behavior (or lack thereof!) is unbecoming a gentleman. A true gentleman sees persons in need as his personal responsibility—even in this dog-eat-dog, 21st-century world. And a true gentleman knows that random acts of kindness are perhaps the most heartwarming gifts he can ever bestow upon a stranger (and upon his own soul in the process).
There are few greater feelings in life than the feeling one receives upon seeing the face of a person in need who has been helped unexpectedly. It truly is a priceless sensation, worth every bit—and much more—the inconvenience endured in offering the needed assistance. A young man, therefore, must be on the alert and welcome such opportunities for helping others. And when he is blessed with such opportunities to assist, he must render his assistance from the bottom of his heart—and with a smile! A true gentleman should be perceived by others as an Earthly Angel, always ready, willing, and able to assist those in need. And he should make a conscious effort to perform at least one random act of kindness per day, for by doing so, he will help make the world a better place and help elevate his soul in the process.
On any given day, a young man is likely to encounter a person in need of a seat, directions, a mobile phone to make an emergency call, assistance with carrying extra bags, a sturdy arm onto which to hold while crossing the street, or a few spare coins for a meal, for example. The elderly, the indigent, the infirm, foreigners, and expectant and young mothers, for example, are frequently in need of some form of assistance, and a young man should be ready to assist whenever possible. In the instances when he truly cannot assist, or decides, for whatever reason, not to assist, he should apologize and continue on his way, being sure, however, to say a prayer or offer a blessing on behalf of the person in need, for that he can always do, no matter how busy or otherwise occupied he may be. In the instances when the young gentleman can assist a person in need, he should render the service, thank the person for accepting the assistance, and continue on his way, making sure that it is clear that his service was altruistically motivated and in no way inspired by a desire for compensation or reward of any sort. Giving for the purpose of receiving tenfold in return is not true, pure giving; it is called receiving a windfall! Do the math…. Divine Recompense for good deeds should be incidental to, not the reason for, rendering the deed.
When using public conveyances such as buses, trains, and subways, numerous occasions will arise when a gentleman should rise in order to offer his seat to another person within his reasonable vicinity: the elderly, the infirm, expectant mothers, and a lady with a child in her arms, for example. And a clear, direct statement, rather than a question, is usually the more effective way of accomplishing the courtesy. Rising and saying, “Ma’am, please have my seat,” is usually much more efficacious than sitting and asking, “Would you like to have my seat, ma’am?” Once the seat has been successfully yielded, the gentleman should distance himself as much as possible from the beneficiary, preferably focusing or directing his attention elsewhere (such as towards his newspaper or a book) so as to minimize or deflect any prolonged sense of obligation on the part of the beneficiary. A gentleman should execute such courtesies in a very matter-of-fact, second-natured manner. Also, and very importantly, it is socially inappropriate for a man to offer his seat to an able-bodied young woman on a public conveyance, for it is likely to be interpreted as an advance rather than a courtesy, thereby rendering the lady who either refuses or accepts the offer even more uncomfortable than she was prior to the offer.