Ethics

For the week ending 13 January 2007 / 23 Tevet 5767

Standing Room Only

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Question: Sometimes I get on a crowded bus with only standing room available. I then notice that one passenger is occupying a double seat with a large bag of groceries next to him. I look enviously at that spot but hesitate to discomfort the fellow by asking him to make way for me. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: According to both common sense and bus company rules that passenger has no right to inconvenience you or any of the other standing passengers by using a sitting place for his package. You may be tempted to make some cynical remark like asking him if he paid for two seats (which may still not justify using one for a package) but restrain yourself from doing so.

The passenger in question most likely took that extra seat for his package when the bus still had many empty seats and may not be aware that he is now the cause of your discomfort. A polite request that he make way for you by placing his package on his lap or on the floor will almost always elicit an apology and effect a quick solution to your problem.

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