She towered over me with an earnest look in her eyes, as I sat in the crowded 380 bus from Thamesmead. From time to time, she’d hurl a quick glance my way, hold it for a few seconds, and then retreat. Shifting her weight from one leg and now to the other and pushing the golden strands of hair that clustered around her delicate face, she’d once again give me another fleeting look. She looked out of place – as if she did not belong to that part of the society where commuting on crowded, steamed and stench-ridden buses was a daily ritual. She was very elegant too – a willowy woman of the refined class she seemed and acted like it was her first time on buses (probably her car broke down). She had a face that glistened like early morning dew and a delicate yet pungent fragrance that wafted through the bus, easing the mists of suffocation with its sweet scent.
I interpreted her quick glances and restlessness as an attempt to persuade me to vacate my seat for her, but I didn’t. I would have done though, had she been fragile and old but she was only in her late 30s or early 40s. Was I wrong?
Though I was brought up in a country where a man never sits whilst a woman, or a girl for that matter, is standing, and where vacating your seat for any woman, young or old is obligatory and a prerequisite for good manners, yet I didn’t. I wanted to, but did not and I don’t know why! is it due to to-day’s time and age? There was a time even here in England when men possessed gentlemanly manners! But that era is long gone and the chivalrous Englishman has departed, insolence filling his void!