CEO’s wife ruined my job prospects

A reader writes:

I have been going through a very rigorous interviewing process for a permanent job in a firm where I have been undergoing a two-month post-college training program/paid internship which is very prestigious and only very few trainees are offered the permanent job. It would be my first proper job after finishing university. I have worked very hard during the training and have been very much appreciated by all colleagues. I have successfully passed all stages of the internal recruitment and have been told repeatedly by HR that I would definitely be offered the job. All that was left was to do a final interview with the company CEO and another director, scheduled for an early afternoon on Monday. However, everyone treated this as a mere courtesy meeting or just a sort of final formality.

On Sunday evening, I was travelling home on a packed train with my bike. Suddently, I was approached by a lady who asked me, rather rudely, to give my seat to a man, her father, who was travelling with her. Since I was sitting on a regular seat (not a seat designated for disabled passangers) and had to read some materials to prepare for my interview, I ignored her. Unfortunately, when I was getting off the train, I accidentally moved my bike in a way that it caught and left dirty stains on her coat.

I did not think much of this till the next day when I ran into the same woman and one of directors in the lift in my office building. It transpired that she is the CEO’s wife. She said nothing and did not acknowledge me, but it was very clear to me that she recognised me.

My interview that day went very well. However, I was not offered the job! I was given some feedback about the skills that I have to develop but that was all. I am not sure HR knows about the above as nobody mentioned it. The HR person who handled my recruitment was very surprised, in fact he was in shock about this. In any case, I am very disappointed as I am sure that this is the result of the said woman badmouthing me to her husband. I have worked so hard to get this job and feel it is extremely unfair to be rejected for something that has nothing to do with my performance and ability to do the job.

I am thinking that I should complain to HR and also should request the meeting with the CEO and the second director (who interviewed me) to explain myself, or maybe even to offering to pay for dry-cleaning or reimbursement of the ruined coat?

Don’t complain to HR. And don’t ask for a meeting to explain yourself. It’ll come across as if (a) you feel entitled to a job that you aren’t actually entitled to and which you might have ended up not getting for other reasons, and (b) you’re only offering to pay for the coat now because you think you lost the job over it.

It’s unlikely that this is about a dry cleaning bill. It’s more likely that this is about … well, character.

Ignoring someone who asks you to give up your seat to an older person who needs it is, frankly, pretty rude. If you had a medical need to sit there, it’s of course fine to explain that. But claiming the seat for yourself because you were reading and didn’t feel like standing is pretty crappy. And not even acknowledging the request is worse. There’s a social contract around this kind of thing — you give up your seat to someone who needs it more because of infirmity.

The bike thing was just icing on the cake. I don’t know how you handled it when you bumped her and stained her clothes, and if you were mortified and apologized profusely, okay — stuff happens that you can’t always control. But you don’t mention apologizing or interacting with her in any way.

If I were your interviewer and happened to be on that train and witnessed all of this, it would give me serious pause about hiring you. I’d worry that I had just learned something about your character (rudeness, selfishness, callousness) that in time would cause problems at work too.

This isn’t all that different from losing a job because you were rude to the receptionist. People care about how you behave to others. Sure, it’s not exactly the same as the receptionist scenario because the person you slighted was the wife of an employee, rather than an actual employee … but if they’re hearing it from a credible source, it’s fair game for it to matter to them.

You could certainly offer to pay for the dry cleaning now (framing it as “I realized that you’re married to someone whose coat I stained on the train and now that I know how to reach her, I would like to pay for the cleaning bill”), but you should offer it just because it’s the right thing to do, not because you’re trying to change the hiring decision.

The hiring decision probably isn’t changing. I know that must be hugely disappointing, but I really urge you not to see it as unfair. Rather, take it as a way to learn early in your career that manners and kindness matter, and that attempts to determine how important someone might be or might not can easily go awry.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 1,375 comments… read them below }

  1. JustaCPA*

    I have to agree with Allison. If I were the CEO, I wouldn’t have hired you either. I think you were unbelievably rude, mean, callous and everything else and I would certainly not want you working for my company. Take this one as a life lesson and start sending out resumes elsewhere.

    1. JokeyJules*

      Accolades don’t trump awful character, regardless of the field you are working in (although I’m sure there are very few exceptions). As much as you’d like to blame it on an pissy wife of a CEO ruining your job prospect, do you think the wife of a CEO isn’t at least a little invested in who is working at the organization? Those were your actions on display when you didn’t think it would benefit you to be kind, courteous, considerate, or at all decent.

      1. Chriama*

        > Those were your actions on display when you didn’t think it would benefit you to be kind, courteous, considerate, or at all decent.

        That’s what I feel. OP ignored someone who was rude to her and is upset that those actions are coming back on them. OP, do you think that someone external to you, observing what was going on, would have approved of what you did? Sure they might have thought the woman was being rude to you but I don’t think they would have thought that you behaved at all appropriately in response.

        1. MJChomper*

          Just a small correction but one that makes the OP’s behavior even less desirable: OP ignored the woman on the train because she didn’t want to give her seat away to an older gent – the woman wasn’t rude to the OP.

          OP ignored the request for her seat, and then adding salt to the wound, marked up the woman’s coat and did not apologize or offer to get it cleaned the moment it happened.

          This was actually a terrific lesson to learn early on in your career, even though it sucks eggs right now. Be nice, be courteous and be compassionate to all. The end.

          1. who?*

            According to the OP the woman was rude. “…a lady who asked me, rather rudely…”

            1. scotshot*

              If the woman had gotten on her knees and begged she would have stated that she was rude.

            2. ashley*

              He stated in the update that she wasn’t actually rude and it was a legitimate request.

      2. Mabel*

        And unfortunately, OP had a chance to address things when they saw the CEO’s wife in the elevator. OP could have said something then about how terrible they felt about the situation and offered to pay for her dry cleaning. We have all done regrettable things in the past, and the best outcome is to learn from them and do better in the future.

        1. Mabel*

          I meant to add: …so I’m glad the OP wrote in for help, and I hope they can learn from this.

        2. JessaB*

          Exactly, up to that moment the OP had no idea who the woman was or how to contact her to make the proper apologies and offers to pay. If the OP had stopped right then and said something like “OMG, it’s you I am so sorry I didn’t stop you and get your information so I could pay to clean your coat. And I was so stressed, I am so sorry for being rude to you.” Before anything else happened, it might have mitigated things. Might not because the original offence wasn’t pretty, but still…

      3. bookish*

        Yup. And it’s possible OP isn’t quiiiite as great as they think they are.

        This feels like a real fairy tale/fable where OP’s character refused to help the old woman at the well and she turned out to be a witch/fairy who had the power to grant all their wishes or crush their dreams.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Wow, it really does, doesn’t it? Or a Greek myth where the gods seek help from some random person and then either bless them or curse them depending on what they did.

            1. Noobtastic*

              Thank you for sending me into an internet vortex of literary analysis that has sucked me in for a solid TWELVE HOURS.

              Links! Why do I always click the links?!

        2. MakesThings*

          This is EXACTLY where my mind went, too. Almost too perfect of a parallel! I guess the old fables have very stable tropes for a reason.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It really does (almost scarily so). I don’t mean to pile on, but the way OP has framed the story is also telling. When good things happen, OP is the hero(ine) of the story, being awesome and taking names. When a bad thing happens, OP is no longer the agent, and “the said woman”—who obviously must be so petty in light of OP’s brilliance—has magically realigned the universe to ruin OP’s chances. This is not a good look for the OP.

        4. Annonymouse*

          I wouldn’t have given up my seat – but only because I’m visably pregnant. (Due any day now.)

          Otherwise as an able bodied adult I always offer my seat to older, injured or otherwise needing the seat (pregnant for example) and parents with small children passengers or at least offer to move if it would be more convenient.

          I.e if there is a parent and small child and a single seat next to me and one across the aisle I’ll move across the aisle so they can sit together.

          It is part of the societal contract and actual rules, at least where I’m from, on trains and busses to give up certain seats (there are special pram/wheelchair zones as well as seats for elderly/injured/pregnant passengers) to more needing passengers.

          School children travelling on a public bus using a free pass aren’t to sit when paying passengers stand.

          By ignoring the request you broke the rules of polite society and were really quite rude. You could have said “no” and given a reason or just given up your seat like a normal person.

          1. Emmalyn*

            As someone with an invisible disability (nerve problems in my back) and who looks young and able-bodied most of the time (when I don’t use my cane)…I appreciate folks like you who are willing to give up a seat to save me some serious pain on the trip home! And I will definitely side-eye the people who won’t give up seats to others who request them, politely or otherwise. It’s just inconsiderate.

          2. Stella's Mom*

            Where I live now too: “It is part of the societal contract and actual rules, at least where I’m from, on trains and busses to give up certain seats (there are special pram/wheelchair zones as well as seats for elderly/injured/pregnant passengers) to more needing passengers. ”

            I **love** this part of where I live and love that people here care for each other and do actually police rude teens for shoes on seats (when this happens, it is rare, most kids are ok), etc etc and offer seats for pregnant/old/handicapped/crutches-wearing folks. Most teens will get up for an older woman or man, too.

            It takes a village for damn sure and I agree with your points for the OP. Does not matter if I had a stressful day or needed to read … someone who asked for a seat and needed it should take priority to your feeling the need to ignore them. Gah.

          3. Indoor Cat*

            I wish I lived where you live.

            I have an invisible disability / chronic illness, and I *do* have a handicap placard. But I get too embarrassed to ask for a seat if the bus is full, because it’s like 50/50 if someone will say yes or if they’ll ignore me or, worse, assume I’m lying about being in pain. And the last thing I want is an argument, even though having the handicap thingy should be “proof.” So it’s like, “I guess I’ll deal with physical pain rather than possibly deal with embarrassment or an argument.”

            Plus, I think sometimes able-bodied people just sit in the disabled seating if the bus is full. I know I can’t know for sure, and I’m not confrontational enough to “call someone out,” but honestly, like, you look fine and I don’t see your placard thing, so, hey. What’s the deal.

            1. Noobtastic*

              Yeah, invisible disabilities are a real thing, and actually really common. And they don’t always come with placards, but that doesn’t mean they’re not real. Also, frequently temporary.

              A person may have a chronic condition that gets them a placard, and they need the seat. Then another person may just be having a temporary issue where standing makes them light-headed and prone to passing out (and a body on the floor takes up WAY more room, folks! We don’t like that in crowded buses and subway cars), and they need to sit down, placard or no.

              This is why good-hearted and sensible people will trust when a person says, “I need to sit down.” No explanation required, because there are so many possibilities, and it’s not our business. We just hear the word “need,” and trust that it is true. And in a case of competing needs, then a polite person judges their own current need, and if they think they can bear it (without passing out and/or otherwise causing inconvenience to everyone present), then they bear it, on the assumption that the other person’s need is greater. And if they cannot do that, because their own need is great, they seek a work-around, such as sharing the seat (yes, you may sit on my lap, if necessary) or asking someone they know to be able-bodied to give up their seat, or some such. They cooperate as best they can.

          4. Noobtastic*

            OP could have said, “I’m sorry. I also need to sit down.” Because invisible disabilities exist, and lots of people who do not visibly need to sit down still need to sit down, and the more experienced in life, the more reasons you can list for a person who seems able to stand to, in fact, need to sit down.

            The CEO’s wife probably could list half a dozen without even thinking. The fact that your reason had nothing to do with your body, but just your reading, would have been a secondary consideration in her mind. “Well, she needs to sit down because of (health) reason, and as long as she’s sitting, she may as well read.” Especially given that most adults can read standing up.

            If you had cited your need to sit down, without giving details, you would not have been considered rude, except by a self-entitled rude person, anyway.

            That’s the power of perception, here. Add in a lack of any sort of apology (let alone an offer to pay for cleaning), and OP has given the perception of a rude, careless, and uncaring person, and the CEO’s wife would warn the CEO and/or hiring manager, because a rude, careless and uncaring person would make for a bad employee, regardless of skills.

            I once had a boss who claimed he could train a monkey to do the job, and was willing to do that training. What he needed was people with the right attitude.

          5. Bouja-Bouja*

            Wading into tenuous territory here, IMO. When I’m coming home from dialysis, i don’t have a visibly big belly but I certainly need that seat more than a healthy person who is pregnant (a perfectly normal thing and not a disability), so I don’t feel good about saying that a pregnant woman has the right to expect someone to give up their seat for her – because you don’t know if they’re on their way to/from dialysis, chemotherapy, or have some other “invisible” but very real disability. It is nice if people choose to give up their seat for a pregnant woman or someone with small children, but it shouldn’t be expected because you have no idea what struggles they have and to judge them like that is unfair and just another suffering they must endure.

            However, in this case, OP, if she had had manners, would have acknowledged this woman, whether or not she was “rude” because you don’t battle rudeness with more rudeness. And, if she had acknowledged the woman, she would have seen the elderly man and it IS fair to assume that an elderly person is more likely to be suffering from some painful ailment, and she could have done the right thing and offered the seat to him.

            Integrity is always doing what’s right – even when no-one is watching. A little integrity might have won OP the job. Hopefully she will realize she’s the wrong one in this story and learn from it. Or spend a lot of time dealing with issues like these.

            1. Annonymouse*

              This doesn’t have to be an either/or situation though.

              There should be enough seats on a mode of public transport that enable us both to have or ask for a seat. And I’m more likely to ask someone who looks healthy and easily able to give up a seat (teenager, business person, person who is putting a bag on a seat and hogging an extra space.)

              If you’ve come back from a health appointment chances are you’ll look tired or disengaged and harder for me to approach.

              Pregnancy also has its own set of problems depending on which stage you are in:
              Nausea and vomiting
              Light headedness/fainting risk
              Balance problems and falling risks

              On the upside they stop after 9 months.

              But I agree there really was no reason for OP to ignore the request. If you don’t want to give a reason or excuse. Don’t just pretend there was no request. It makes you look so much worse.

      4. Green Tea Pot*

        Agree with Alison completely.

        I have to admit I was surprised to read that the OP didn’t respond when asked to give up the seat. But, as others have pointed out, there is a lesson to be learned. It’s never too late.

        Best of luck, OP.

        1. mashenzy*

          Some people are very embarrassed by unwanted, unsoliticted attention, and don’t know how to respond. I’ve had days where even an “you look nice today” caught me off guard and made me uncomfortable. Not saying OP is right or awesome for this, but it’s a possibility. Maybe they were stressed and focused elsewhere and the sudden drawing of attention to them threw them off.

          1. boop the first*

            Maybe a dragon flew in and roared so loudly that OP simply couldn’t hear her?
            Maybe OP had laryngitis?
            Maybe OP was trapped in another dimension and wouldn’t be able to respond?

            The Maybe Game is kind of fun, actually!

          2. who?*

            I think if that were the case OP would have stated it. They are quite clear that they felt they deserved to keep their seat, didn’t feel like giving it up, and ignored the woman’s request to move.

    2. Important Moi*

      I suspect the comments for this question will be harsh. I will attempt to limit the hyperbole in mine.

      The overall tone of the question is covered by Alison. This is about character.

      Maybe some self-evaluation? (or something?) as OP doesn’t seem sorry, just sorry that he offended someone he believes prevented OP from getting a job. Those 2 things are not the same at all.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        It reminds me of the letter from the person who ran into someone from high school at Target, who blanched and fled. LW asked, found out the person was still traumatized from high school bullying, shrugged, and went on. A few months later… turns out former victim won’t work with LW and desirable job at cool company is thus closed off. A heartfelt apology post-Target might have helped (or not) but ignoring that opening right up until LW needed something… the late apology just won’t land.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          (Should read, LW asked someone else amongst high school acquaintances what was up with the old classmate fleeing her presence.)

    3. DJ*

      Yep, I agree as well. That would be a huge red flag to me. I want to work with people who are kind, polite, and humble. Someone who exemplified the behaviour that the LW did (and this is their version, which would hypothetically paint them in the best light–who knows what the full story is), would be disqualified in my books.

      1. Anonymoose*

        Exactly. Had she at least given the seat up, we would be reading a very different letter today, but it didn’t even occur to her – because, reading. (wut?)

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Absolutely this—even based on OP’s version of what happened, this would have been a red flag for me, as well.

        OP, take this as a learning opportunity. The analogy to being rude to the receptionist is apt. It doesn’t matter how skilled or hardworking you are if you don’t treat people appropriately. It’s like the sign on my junior high gym wall—integrity is how you behave when no one is watching. Here, you’ve shown that you behave differently when people whose opinion matters to you are watching. Or, at best, you’re unwilling to adhere to social norms regarding the elderly/infirm on public transit unless a person satisfies your rules lawyering. Neither of those attitudes inspire confidence in a person’s integrity and character.

        If you feel like you were misjudged, then I think it would help to go forward in life remembering that people don’t get to know all of you all at once. They judge you based on interactions exactly like what you’ve described. I think you’ll be better served if, instead of focusing on the CEO’s wife or on complaining to HR, you focus on upping your game in those one-off moments to reflect the kind of person you think you are. This is a tough experience, but honestly, I’m glad you received it so early in your career when you still have time to change it.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          I really like your last paragraph especially. Excellent advice.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Thank you!

            It’s advice I’ve had to adopt in my own life. When I’m tired or stressed out, I tend not to give people the level of attention and focus they deserve, which can come off as disrespectful and disinterested. I strive really hard not to be entitled, distracted, or individually disrespectful to people, so learning that I was doing exactly those things was very painful to learn (although certainly more painful for the people on the receiving end of that conduct).

            Realizing that I needed to be mindful so my actions would reflect the values/standards I hold out for myself made me feel somewhat foolish, but it also made me reassess and adjust my behavior. I still foul it up, but I foul up less often than before, and I try to apologize promptly when I do make mistakes. I kind of wish I had known about my bad behaviors when I was in my early 20s, though, instead of in my late 20s.

            1. Lusca*

              I think you’re very wise, PCBH. Would that more people thought the same! And fwiw, when a single-serving acquiantence is rude to me, I try to consider maybe they’re having a crap day, and it keeps me from jumping to (possibly undeserved) conclusions about their character.

          2. Noobtastic*

            True, OP. You got a harsh lesson, but if you take that lesson and run with it, you have lots of time to make a successful career, and a successful life, based on that lesson.

            It’s like medicine. It doesn’t always taste good, but if it heals you, you’re glad of it, in the end.

        2. Annonymouse*

          Also a few quotes that comes to mind:

          “Judge not a man by how he treats his superiors but his inferiors”

          “The only time you should look down on someone is because you are helping them up.”

          You are at a stage in your career where character counts just as much (if not more so in some cases) as your skills.

          Your not a Dr House or Strange. Your skills are likely not so rare or exceptional that you can get away with being dismissive or even rude to those you think as less than you.

          This is a good lesson to learn now.

          1. Emmalyn*

            Also: judge someone not by how they treat their peers, but how they treat their dog.

          2. Czhorat*

            I know the discussion here is long over, but I wanted to express complete, one hundred percent agreement with this; the House/Strange/Holmes/Stark “Smartest guy in the room” character has become so very damaging to expected norms of behavior. We get a series of smart men (and they’re always men) showing complete disregard for the emotional needs of others and not only getting away with it but being regarded as heroes worthy of emulation. They rarely if ever suffer real consequences for their actions, and always come off appearing justified.

            The real world doesn’t work that way. The ability to handle an encounter with a stranger and not come across as insenstive and thoughtless? That’s a far more important skill than any job-based skillset at which you may or may not excel.

            1. Applegates*

              There’s an interesting shade of irony here. Everybody is reaching and assuming things about OP’s overall character because of one series of mistakes, probably because they know someone and this person reminds them of So-and-so the Jerk who wronged them at X time in the past. Being young and less self aware is not a serious crime, guys. It’s nice that some of you express hope that this person will grow and learn from this experience, but everyone else just seems like they’re posturing and stroking their own egos about how polite and awesome they and the people they know are. We all make mistakes, including you and me. All these comments are just beating a dead horse at this point, because Allison said it first and best. Be careful where you judge, reach, and speculate, and how about YOU practice some self awareness once in a while?

              1. Pomona Sprout*

                “Everybody is reaching and assuming things about OP’s overall character because of one series of mistakes, probably because they know someone and this person reminds them of So-and-so the Jerk who wronged them at X time in the past.”

                And I think there’s “an interesting shade of irony” in accusing others here of “reaching and assuming things” while simultaneously doing the same thing oneself.

                From what I can see, everyone (up to the point where you chimed in–I haven’t read every single response here and probably won’t have time to do so) has been doing a pretty good job of focusing on the issue of character that Alison brought up, and how one way we show what we’re made of is by being polite and considerate of others at all times, not just when we think someone whose opinion matters to us might be looking.

                We have all experienced and observed rudeness in our lives, beginning as small children. That’s how we learned what it is, how it feels to be on the receiving end of it, and why it’s wrong. It’s not just the people who are kind and fair that teach us valuable life lessins; many of us have also learned a great deal from people like “So-and-so the Jerk who wronged [us] at X time in the past.” Of COURSE we’re going to draw on those experiences (and the associated emotions) when discussing similar situations. Implying that it is unfair and/or invalid to do so is therefore nonsensical.

                Finally, your defense of OP as merely being “young and less self aware which is is “not a serious crime” comes off rather, well, defensive, imo. Reading your comment, I get the feeling that the comments critical of OP may have struck some sort of a nerve with you, and I can’t help wondering why that is.

                1. Noobtastic*

                  It’s important to learn what to do by emulating the good people of the world. It is also important to learn what *not* to do, by examining the not-quite-so-good people of the world.

                  I know a woman who is a very bad cook. Her daughter is a better cook, and once claimed that she learned her cooking skill from her mother, because her mother taught her what not to do.

                  OP got an excellent lesson in what not to do. This is valuable, to OP and to anyone reading this, who has not yet learned that lesson.

            2. NoNoNoNoNo*

              It is always men. I notice lots of commenters referring to OP in the feminine but I got a total “entitled male” vibe reading the post.

          3. Owen Bytheway*

            Also “The foot you step on today may be connected to the ass you’ll kiss tomorrow.”

  2. blackcat*

    Oof, yeah, often during busy times, there aren’t enough disabled seats for everyone who legitimately needs them. So folks have to ask for a “regular” seat if they need to sit down.

    I wouldn’t hire someone who refused to give up a seat to an elderly person, because it signals that they don’t always take the needs of people around them into account. Generally, I want to work around folks who are courteous & kind.

    1. michelenyc*

      As someone that rides the subway everyday I can tell you that there are only maybe 6 seats officially deemed for people with disabilities on each car which in my opinion is not that many considering how many subway cars there are. I am always shocked by how many people flat out ignore the disabled/elderly/pregnant when they get on the train. I would also not hire someone for being rude to others.

      1. The Optimizer*

        To refuse/ignore the request is pretty bad but to do it while taking up even more space with a bike is even worse.

        1. Ktelzbeth*

          There are systems with designated bike spaces, so it’s not necessarily taking up passenger space, except in the sense that maybe someone could sit/stand/perch on the bike rack/area if the bike weren’t there.

          1. JessaB*

            That part surprised me, where I live the busses have bike racks on the front of the bus. They can’t put them in the back because a: emergency exit and b: someone could steal one if you can’t see it out the front window. Nobody takes an actual bike into the passenger area unless it’s one of those backpack fold ups.

        2. Backroads*

          Yes, it was the ignoring that did me in. If you yourself are disabled or your invisible pet llama is sitting there, acknowledge me and let’s have a polite conversation about our needs.

          1. Yomi*

            Exactly this. I’m not to the level I use the word disabled for myself, but I am not able bodied either. There are days that standing would cause me pain and some where it would make me feel sick. Unless I am in an inside seat where it’s too difficult to get up and shift people around (stupid metro car layout) I will always give up my seat to someone who asks, even on my bad days, because if they are asking I assume they need it more than I do. I proactively will get up for people with visible difficulties, or if I’m having a good day I’ll get up so people don’t have to ask. I’m not saying this to sound like a martyr, I’m saying that all seats are disability seating and you will be leading a kinder life if you treat them as such.

            1. Temperance*

              Honestly, why would you make yourself feel worse for someone else’s benefit? There are plenty of other people who could theoretically be approached for their seat. I never, ever assume someone “needs” something more than I do.

              You have to be your own best advocate for your health. It’s fine if you don’t mind making yourself sicker/wearing yourself out, but I would advise against this course of action. Remember the post last week about “ask vs. guess” culture? There are people who will ask for things that they want and don’t need because they assume that the answer might be no. There are people who might look at you and assume that you’re healthy and fit and that they deserve to sit more than you.

              1. Yomi*

                In my case, that’s actually something I’m working on with a therapist because I almost always put myself last, but it’s also because I would rather assume people are good (being honest about their needs if they are asking for a seat) than being selfish. I take it too far, sure, but I also know so, so many people with invisible illnesses that I am mostly trying to be sensitive to the fact that I don’t know their story and it could be very bad.

                1. Temperance*

                  That’s totally fair and valid. I sort of have the opposite outlook on the world (that people will do whatever they can for themselves, including overstepping), but in a lot of ways, yours is probably better. I do strongly encourage you to do what’s best for you, though, on an individual level. While it may be true that the asker has a need, so do you, and yours isn’t less important because you aren’t able to verbalize it.

                2. Shadow*

                  When I was pregnant, I would sometimes request a seat, when I felt I really needed it. I have poor balance, and it was even poorer while extremely pregnant. If the train was too crowded, it was hard to reach the ceiling bars, and rather than fall over, it seemed smarter to ask for a seat.

                  One man glanced at me, shook his head and went back to talking to his companion. He turned bright red, which I’m at a loss to interpret – he needed to sit, but was embarrassed that he didn’t explain it?
                  One woman said “no, I’m doing my bible study, I can’t do that standing up.”
                  One man literally SHOVED past me to get on the train first, so he could take the only available seat.
                  One woman gave me her seat, but hit me with her purse because I didn’t “ask sooner,” whatever that meant. I asked within 1 stop of getting on the train, as soon as it became clear that I was even less steady than usual.
                  One man appeared to take a swing at me, which I honestly still am not sure I understood correctly. I have trouble believing my memory, in this case. Maybe he was wildly off balance?

                  All in all, if someone works up the courage to request a seat on our local lightrail system, I assume they badly need it, because why else would they take on that kind of personal risk?

                3. Annonymouse*

                  Damn Shadow.

                  I thought the person who tried to steal my hair or the one who followed me around a station after commenting lewdly on my breast were the worst you could encounter on public transit.

                  Where do you live that people think it’s ok to hit or ignore a pregnant and off balance woman?

                4. rdb0924*

                  Shadow, I presume the woman “doing Bible study” hadn’t gotten to the section that includes “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

          2. Noobtastic*

            That’s the thing. It’s not the refusing to give up the seat. You may have needs of your own. It’s the ignoring that did OP in.

      2. CityMouse*

        As a regular train rider I think it is also a good idea to stay aware of people who look like they need the seats for any reason, like they have a small child or a large bag. The train is a nicer place to be when people help each other out.

        1. Another Lawyer*

          Yes! So, so, so much nicer! It’s 100% small actions by everyone that make it a decent experience and people who are selfish in these situations stick out as especially tone deaf in my experience.

      3. The Strand*

        Please consider one thing, though – some of the people who don’t give up their seats may themselves have a disability that is not obvious.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          That’s fine, but a courteous person would still respond to a direct question instead of just playing dumb.

          1. The OG Anonsie*

            If someone was immediately hostile with me in demanding I get up, I don’t think I would engage with them. If someone asked me calmly like a normal person and it was a day I couldn’t easily stand for my whole bus ride, then yeah I would explain why I needed a seat. But I don’t need to explain myself to a stranger who’s coming out the gate with a raised voice or a nasty tone for no reason. 99% of the time people needing a seat just ask everyone nicely if someone doesn’t mind standing and someone volunteers and everyone is happy, there’s no reason to be a jerk about it and there’s no reason for me to get into it with some random person. Odds are real good that they are not going to accept my explanation anyway, since they’ve already decided they know what’s going on and I’m clearly in the wrong to them.

            The LW says the way she asked was rude, though I’m not sure what type of behavior that specifically means here. It could be “I find it rude someone would ask me to do this” or hostility like I’m describing above, and I don’t know which it was but if it were the latter I would totally understand. I’m guessing from the explanation that they were not in a disability priority seat that it was the former, though, which is… Another story.

            1. wb*

              I’m late to this discussion, but I’m astounded that this is the first comment to even ponder this. I’m 100% in the ‘rude people get ignored’ camp for subway riding. I would have, while ignoring the woman, however, asked her father if he wanted my seat. However rude she was, the father may indeed have needed the seat.

              1. MommaTRex*

                Thank-you. That is the perfect solution for when you don’t want to acquiesce to a person who is rude, but still want to do the right thing for the person who needs it.

        2. Marzipan*

          I have a problem on trains where if I’m standing, I’ll get terribly travel sick, but if I’m seated I’m fine. This is obviously particularly awkward because the fact that the train is crowded makes it really hard to reach the toilets in time if I’m going to be sick. So it’s obviously better for me to sit if possible, but you wouldn’t know it to look at me. That said, I’d absolutely give up the seat to someone unable to stand – I’ve sat in the luggage rack before, when it came to it!

        3. Observer*

          Well, a polite “I’m sorry I can’t” is very different from just ignoring the person who asks. This is especially true when the person has a bike with them, which most people will legitimately assume means that that person could stand.

          1. GermanGirl*

            Yes, it’s the ignoring that is the problem, not the not leaving (for which the sitting person could have any number of non-obvious good reasons).
            Just a polite “I’m sorry, I can’t” would have been enough.

            My musings on sitting etiquette:
            I do sit in disabled seating if nothing else is free and nobody obviously needs it, but I’ll always give it up if someone asks. I’ll also usually give up a non-disabled seat if someone asks in a non-rude way.
            Yes I’ve had random elderly strangers yell out of the blue “Don’t you know that you should give your seat to elderly people? You’re rude!” and no I don’t give my seat to people who yell at me.

            Also, if I see a family (or if I’m in a good mood even a couple) looking for seats and I sit in a 2 or 4 seat arrangement, I’ll actively offer to switch if there is an empty seat in sight (if there isn’t, they’ll have to ask).

            What I don’t do is give up my seat if I have a reservation, because my employer paid extra to reserve a seat so I could work. There are always enough seats without a reservation on the trains I use so people should ask for those seats first.

            Also, I sometimes wish people would ask the least busy person first, not the friendliest looking. I look like a nice young girl, and I’ve had people ask me to give up my seat when I’ve had a laptop or a binder full of papers to grade already out on my table/knees and some middle aged man was sitting in the next row playing on his iPhone. Honestly, people, why do you ask me in that situation and not him?

            1. JessaB*

              The problem with people who yell at you because you won’t give your seat to the elderly, is that five minutes from then you offer your seat (which you got when it emptied on the very next stop,) you get “How dare you presume that just because I’m older than you I can’t stand up?” In the exact same tone and volume as Ms “you should be ashamed of yourself.” You cannot win that one.

        4. Cercis*

          I used to sit in the “handicapped” seats on the bus because squeezing my long legs into the other seats meant that I’d have trouble walking for a while afterwards (about half a block’s worth). I always gave up my seat when needed (choosing to stand instead). But one day I was on the bus and of the 6 handicapped seats, 3 were empty. I was sitting next to my friend and we had our multiple bags under our feet (so out of the way, but not that convenient). Another friend was across the aisle from us and we were talking and visiting. I wasn’t paying that close attention to who was getting on (we rarely had many riders that time of the morning) so the first thing I hear is someone yelling at me that I have to give him my seat. I was so surprised because the seat across from me was empty and appeared to be exactly the same. I apologized and said “well, I’ll need a few minutes to gather all my stuff” and my friend across said “sir, there’s a seat here you can take” He glared at us and said “she has to give up her seat, she’s not handicapped!” and the driver said “there are *3* empty seats, quit bugging the other passengers”. He spent the rest of the ride grumbling to my friend about how rude I was and she’s like “actually I know her and she’s very nice and friendly, you just didn’t give her a chance and you were rude.”

          Later that day I had my first appointment with my physical therapist and got a knee brace. When I got on the bus that evening, my friend looked at my brace and said “OH! Now you have proof that you need the handicapped seat” and just started laughing. The others on the bus hadn’t been on that morning and didn’t get it, so we explained and they’re all like “we’ve been watching you struggle with that knee for months – thank goodness you finally took steps to getting it fixed” and all started reminding each other that just because someone is relatively young and looks “able bodied” doesn’t mean that they don’t have physical limitations that aren’t obvious. And I got a reminder that even though I thought I’d been covering my pain well, apparently I really don’t have a poker face.

          1. Themiscyra*

            Ohhh, that happened to me once. I was in one of the four or five open handicapped seats with my laptop (I’ve also always had long legs and bad knees, and nowadays I actually walk with a cane due to chronic leg pain) and an old man dropped into the seat next to me and started ranting about the fact that I hadn’t immediately given my seat to him. He had a seat, and there were multiple open seats around us. Most of them were actually closer to the front of the bus than mine. Yes, people should give up their seats to people who need them, but you’re not inherently entitled to a specific seat.

            1. The OG Anonsie*

              I’ve noticed that for some people, disability priority things are assumed to always be preemptively reserved for people with disabilities, and that’s not always how it works. Some folks will never sit in the priority seating and take sitting there at all, even if you get up, to be rude. I also know people who won’t use the handicap stall in a bathroom either, and think it’s awful for anyone else to use it in case someone who needs it* comes in. They sort of treat them all like handicap parking spaces, I guess. That leads to some conflicts in what’s considered proper/rude or not.

              That said, I’ve found the grand majority of people who assume they’re reserved to be able-bodied people assuming that’s what they’re supposed to do. I have not encountered a lot (I actually can’t think of any, but I feel like I have heard this maybe once) of other people with disabilities that expect people to do this. I’ve always sort of taken it as one of those things able-bodied people assume about disability accommodation that’s a little out of touch with reality, but I don’t know. Maybe it’s regional?

              *Which I’ve noticed they also assume only means people in wheel chairs. They’re usually surprised when I tell them that a lot of people who don’t use mobility aids need to use the support bars on the walls to get up and down.

              1. Floundering Mander*

                I recently had an encounter with one of those people who believe that all reserved spaces are always reserved even if nobody on the bus needs to use them. Busses in the UK have a sign that quite clearly says that if someone who needs the space gets on you have to move the stroller (generally folding it up or in practice getting off the bus), but if there is room that’s where the stroller is supposed to go.

                A woman got on the bus with a baby in a stroller, and another passenger started ranting and raving about how she wasn’t allowed to have a stroller on the bus and that the driver should kick her off. My husband attempted to talk to her but she was clearly very confused about a number of things to do with busses, including somehow insisting that on particular routes they aren’t allowed to stop at all (never mind the traffic jam we were caught in…). He asked how people with infants were meant to travel and she said not on the bus!

                1. Noobtastic*

                  Some people seem to hate babies so much, they’d prefer the human race just die off. But not before they get their piece of the pie.

        5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Of course. But if someone approaches you, you should at least respond to them, even if it’s to explain that you cannot move. Ignoring the person making the request, particularly when sitting is not required for medical or related reasons (as was the case for OP), is pretty rude.

        6. MsChanandlerBong*

          Thank you. I have multiple chronic conditions, none of which are immediately obvious. When I went into acute kidney failure (I had a stent put in an artery, and the dye they use is nephrotoxic, so I went from having about 40% kidney function to 19% kidney function in a matter of days), I spent most of my time in bed, but I still had to go out and pick up my prescriptions and go to the doctor. You would not know from looking at me that I was so severely ill, but it was so bad that I had to use the “mart cart” to get to the pharmacy in the back of the grocery store. I would not have been able to stand up on the subway at that time (although I would not ignore a request; I would just explain the problem).

      4. ZenJen*

        when I’m on a train that’s starting to get crowded, I’m more likely to STAND so that I can be closer to the door. when it’s crowded, I wouldn’t want to have to fight the crowd just to exit the train, esp when I have luggage or something else big/bulky. sitting would be a major pain. maybe OP should consider that, besides being less selfish/being a bit more mature in social situations. Not giving up the seat is a big deal, but the MUCH bigger deal is not trying to rectify the stains to the coat (an apology, an offer to pay for the cleaning AND giving them your cell #, since it’s basically a fender bender).

        1. De Minimis*

          Only four seats designated for elderly/disabled/etc…. that is!

          Though they keep removing seats so at one point we may see only 4 seats, period!

      5. neeko*

        To be fair, some people don’t have visible disabilities that require them to sit and someone people that you assume are pregnant based on looks might not be.

        1. Annonymouse*

          And you can explain that.
          I’ve had to explain “sorry, I’m pregnant.” To middle aged people or families who wanted my seat when there weren’t any free seats available.

          I’d of course give up my seat to someone who was older or clearly in pain or had a greater need.

          What burns me most is people who are most aware and likely give up their seats are the ones that need it and the ones that don’t give it up should be the ones who do.

        2. LizM*

          I had horrible fatigue and nausea in my first trimester, before I was visibly pregnant. I was asked to move a few times, and just told people I was pregnant and couldn’t stand for the full trip. No one ever argued with me.

      6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think the subway is an exception just because there’s a shocking lack of politeness on most Manhattan-transversing trains. But even if you later take a PATH or Metro North, the rules re: the elderly, disabled, infirm, or pregnant all kick back in. And they certainly apply on other transit systems (e.g., D.C. Metro, the El, the T, BART, MARTA, etc.).

        Regardless, even on the subway, you don’t ignore someone who speaks a language you understand and asks you to move. Usually people ignore that a [disabled/pregnant/elderly] person exists and don’t affirmatively offer their seat to the person in need of a seat. But if someone approaches you, aren’t abusive, and you understand whatever language you’re speaking, then it’s not normal to straight up ignore them, even on the subway. It doesn’t mean you have to give up your seat, but it does mean you should at least entertain the request or respond to that person.

        1. Optimistic Prime*

          I used to live in Manhattan and was always really pleased at how polite and courteous subway riders there tended to be to other people in need, particularly if they asked.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I apologize for not being specific! I found that in Manhattan, people don’t offer up their seat. But they do tend to be courteous if you’re in need and you ask for a seat. I found that in the Bronx/Queens, the further you were from Manhattan, the more likely it was that someone would offer you their seat without being asked if they thought you needed it more than they did.

            1. Lil Lamb*

              Yep. My theory is that Manhattan is filled with people who are *not* native to New York so they think they can get away with a lack of courtesy because NY has a reputation for rudeness. People in the outer boroughs are much more likely to get up and offer their seats.

              1. Not lurking right now*

                My policy when riding on Manhattan subways (my knees tend to start aching after walking for a while, and while they can get so bad I can’t stand, they are not normally that painful) was to give up a seat if asked, but otherwise, not offer, unless someone really looked like they could not stand. I can risk having to find somewhere to collapse for a bit if someone needs a seat badly enough to ask me for one, but otherwise, it’s really troublesome.

              2. Working Hypothesis*

                I grew up in Manhattan and lived there for 20 years and in Queens for 8. Never found a difference between the boroughs in terms of courtesy, and in all of them, I found a consistent kindness and reciprocal altruism from other riders about this kind of thing.

                One of my favorite examples didn’t actually involve any obvious disabilities at all. I saw a woman who looked exhausted, carrying a small child and many packages, so I stood and offered her my seat. She smiled gratefully as she took it, and said something that was pretty obviously thanks (from tone), in a language I didn’t understand. I smiled back and stood for one stop.

                At the next station, I heard someone behind me calling something, also in a language I don’t understand — so I turned around, and found the lady’s husband across the train and a little ways up, holding a seat that had evidently just opened up, and beckoning me towards it. I had given his wife my seat, so when he found one of his own, instead of sitting in it, he offered it to me. All of this transacted by gesture and tone, among people who didn’t know how to speak any language in common, but didn’t need to.

                That’s my New York. I see stuff like that — all sides of it — every day there.

        2. Emi.*

          You don’t even ignore someone who speaks a language you don’t understand! Come on, you can almost certainly manage a confused face, even if you don’t even recognize the language.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I agree! I just think being approached in a language you don’t speak makes it a little more understandable if you freeze instead of responding or acknowledging the person. I don’t think that makes it ok, but it’s slightly more forgivable. In my experience, you give someone a confused face and proceed to try to speak using hand gestures.

      7. Not a Brexiteer*

        FWIW, I understand that in the UK it’s currently a thing among younger people NOT to give up seats on buses for the elderly, because the elderly disproportionately voted for Brexit, which the young view as a betrayal.

        1. MommaTRex*

          So many younger people in the UK think stereotyping is an OK thing to do? *facepalm*

    2. Kathleen Adams*

      The OP didn’t just refuse – that would have been bad enough. The OP completely ignored the person making the request.

      Oh, my.

      OP, I don’t want to pile on since you’re already not getting a job you really want, and that hurts. But you really just shouldn’t treat people like that. Ignoring someone who’s rude or creepy or making an outlandish request, that’s all fine. But someone making a reasonable request like this just should not be ignored. Even making up an excuse (e.g., “I’m sorry but I just twisted my ankle/I’m feeling dizzy/etc.”) would be better than ignoring someone just because you don’t want to give up a seat.

      1. CityMouse*

        Yeah I save ignoring for harassment or crazy people where I am worried about my safety if I engage.

      2. (another) b*

        Yeah when I was commuting by train sometimes I would need to stay seated because of my heels. It would kill to stand for an hour. But in that case I would explain. Tho I don’t know if this OP is a man or woman.

        1. Alli525*

          I’m derailing a touch here, but “I’m wearing heels today” is not a reason to excuse someone from giving up a seat to the elderly or disabled. I wear heels AT work, but I rarely commute TO work in heels.

          1. Ramblin' Ma'am*

            Yes, this. I keep my nice shoes in the office and wear sneakers on the subway.

        2. CityMouse*

          As a non heels wearer I have totally offered my seat to women in heels (I am a woman myself). Actually also tourists who aren’t handling turns and stops too.

        3. Broken*

          Are you serious? I am recovering from a broken ankle and leg and I cannot stand on the train and your choice to wear heels instead of flats on a train does not trump my right to not rebreak my ankle. You are as conscientious as the OP.

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            I agree. Wearing heels is a choice. Injury, illness, and disability are not matters of choice.

      3. TootsNYC*

        “Ignoring someone who’s rude or creepy or making an outlandish request, that’s all fine.”

        Our OP says the woman asked rudely–and the man she was traveling with may not have seemed old, so the request may have seemed outlandish. (Though, like someone above, I assume that no one will ask for someone else’s seat unless they actually need it.)

        “Suddently, I was approached by a lady who asked me, rather rudely, to give my seat to a man, her father, who was travelling with her.”

        Nevertheless, I agree w/ the consensus that the OP should have responded in some way.

        1. Annonymouse*

          Most company CEOs are in their 40s or 50s, maybe even older.

          Assuming the wife is between 30- 50 her father would most likely be between 60-80.

          I’d say it’s reasonable to offer up your seat to a person in that age range.

        2. Kathleen Adams*

          Yes, I know I was unclear there. My apologies. By “rudely” I meant reeeeeally rudely, e.g., using profanity or being otherwise absolutely obnoxious. Just being peremptory or brusque, particularly when asking for a favor for someone else, is not enough to justify ignoring the person. Ignoring is in this case much, much, much ruder than asking, even in a bossy and irritating way.

    3. babblemouth*

      Even people without disabilities sometimes need a seat! I once felt very dizzy in a busy train, and had to ask someone else to give me their seat. Due to how bad I felt, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t polite about it either. I’m glad they were kind enough to give it to me, or I might have passed out in the middle of the aisle.

      1. the_scientist*

        Indeed! Honestly, this is why I err on the side of politeness. It’s not going to harm me to stand for my commute. If someone is in a bad enough way that they need to ask for my seat, I’m going to give it to them, and I’m not going to ask them for a dissertation on why they need it. I’m going to assume they are being genuine in their need, and hope that some day in the future, when I’m feeling sick (or maybe when I’m gestating a human) I’ll be repaid in kind.

        OP, I’m sorry you lost this job that you wanted, but you’re young, you’re early in your career, and this can be a valuable learning opportunity for you. Please take some time for self-reflection and use this to grow.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yes, I will generally stand if there aren’t many seats–given the amount of people getting on and off, there will almost always be someone who needs it more than I do. The only time I didn’t was when I had a knee brace on (obvious) and had been running around all day and I really wanted that seat. But if someone worse off than me had needed it, I would have gotten up.

          If the train is crowded, I’d rather stand near the open window anyway, for the breeze. Of course, then it becomes a matter of keeping my hair from blowing all over everybody.

        2. Uberflieger*

          “Indeed! Honestly, this is why I err on the side of politeness….”

          I agree that OP should have given up her seat. But I can think of one good counterexample. I often travel long-haul by plane — usually in economy, sadly! — and I would say that on about one out of every three trips, I get a request to change my seat (which I’ve booked in advance and paid for) to accommodate someone who wants to sit by a family member. (Recently, someone demanded I give up my aisle bulkhead seat for a middle seat, so that she could sit by her sister.)

          I decline these requests and feel justified in doing so. What’s the moral difference between this and OP?

          I’ve begun declining these requests.

      2. Fiennes*

        I, too, once got dizzy on the subway, in a very crowded car. Instead of asking for a seat, I just sat down heavily on the floor – but people immediately moved to help, and someone gave up their seat to me right away. I was tremendously grateful.

        1. Annie on a Mouse*

          Are you me? I had this happen once and it took all my effort not to be physically sick, so I ended up crouching on the floor and clutching my suitcase for support. Someone immediately gave me their seat and I was so appreciative, even though I was too sick to thank them properly.

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              Whereas I once collapsed on a train and woke up to someone stepping on my face. Good times.

              1. Fellow London-er*

                I see from your later comments, Ramona, that you’re another London-er. This must be a London thing. I’ve once slumped onto a train floor because I was feeling pretty terrible and my legs were just not going to take it anymore – I just got given a ton of dirty looks. Good, good times.

                1. Bonky*

                  I’ve since moved to another city, but I was living in London in 2003 when we had that ridiculously hot summer. I fainted on the Tube on the way home from work, but the crush was so bad that I didn’t actually hit the floor until the next stop – there were so many people there that the press of bodies was holding me upright until we stopped and some people moved to get out! (At THAT point several people came to help, which I was very grateful for. The Tube’s not all bad. Although after that incident I did start adding 45 minutes to my commute and taking the bus instead.)

          1. Noobtastic*

            Hand clapped over the mouth, and eyes wide: The universal sign for “I would say thanks right now, but if I open my mouth to speak, I’ll spew.” Very convenient.

            And, yes, I’ve had to use that sign, instead of saying “thank you.” I do believe the other people understood.

      3. Brandy*

        That was nice of them. My mom (at least to me) doesn’t seem very old (a youngish 65) but she cannot stand very long or her legs will give out. She looks fine and has spurts of being fine, but after a while her legs will just start to go.

      4. Yomi*

        I’ve had the same issue a few times, though I’m never brave enough to ask for a seat. But at least twice, I’ve apparently looked awful and someone offered me a seat.

        And I’ve had people offer when I looked fine but I was having joint pain they couldn’t have known about, because they were just being nice. Those people are heroes.

    4. Artemesia*

      I am always stunned by the number of young able bodied men and women who will just sit there when an obviously elderly mobility impaired person needs a seat. I am in my 70s and have sometimes been the one who leaps up and offers when someone is on crutches or an elderly person with a cane needs a seat. Usually a younger person offers, but surprisingly often none do. It doesn’t matter if you are in a designated seat, you stand up when someone else needs the seat and particularly if someone asks you to do so. It isn’t just in the US that this boorishness occurs either; I remember having to request seats in Italy for my 80 year old obviously mobility impaired mother on the buses.

      This story is a rare case of karma actually working.

      1. Brandy*

        Judge Karen (TruTV) was just lamenting on being on a trip and (shes in her 50s I think) and she was on the airport trolly and a much older woman got on with several young children and she was the one that got up to offer her seat and help out, not the younger people. And when she was putting her carryon in the overhead bin, she had some issues getting it in as it was over her head. It was a man older then her that stopped to help her, not anyone younger.

        1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

          On the flipside, a bunch of 15 year old girls helped my wife through Chicago O’Hare with a broken foot a few years ago. It’s not young people who are the problem, it’s self-absorbed people, and those cross all demographics.

          1. RKB*

            Yes! I’m in my 20s and honestly, unless the bus or train is nearly completely empty, I always stand. It’s better for me anyway! When I had cancer, people would offer their seats to me all the time, from all age groups.

          2. Anon for this*

            I’m one of our AAM readers with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. When I’ve gotten hurt in public, teenagers and college-aged people have come to help me much, much more often than adults.

            Teenagers get a bad rap, and maybe they haven’t learned etiquette for public transportation yet, but I wanted to speak up for them!

            1. Turtle Candle*

              I think that the “haven’t learned etiquette yet” accounts for a lot of the apparent discrepancy. I know when I was younger I often kind of froze up in that sort of situation–would offering help with a bag be perceived as kind or rude (implying that he’s too weak to handle it himself)? Is offering my assistance to someone with a broken foot or a bunch of kids to wrangle a good thing or an imposition? I want to offer my seat to pregnant women but I can’t tell if she’s pregnant or not and is it going to hurt her feelings if I offer her my seat and she knows I’m offering because I think she’s pregnant but it turns out she isn’t? Etc. (Yes, I overthought everything. Still do, but I was worse at twenty.)

              As I’ve gotten older I tend to have a better intuitive sense of when I should and should not make the offer, and also a general sense that I’d rather err on the side of being overly helpful than, I guess, underly helpful. But it was just inexperience that made me freeze in some of those situations, not a lack of desire to help.

              (Of course, if someone asks, that makes the whole thing much easier!)

              1. Siberian*

                I appreciate the “haven’t learned etiquette yet” comment. When I was in my teens I did some rude things because I was too socially awkward or unsure of the social rules to know how to do the right things with grace. I knew I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to do, but was too inhibited, anxious or shy to do what I should. It made me miserable. It’s so great not to be a teenager anymore.

                1. the gold digger*

                  I wish I could go back in time and apologize to the neighbors whose mailbox I ran over when I was in high school.

                  My dad repaired it the next day, but I don’t know why he didn’t make me apologize. We even knew them!

                  I hang my head in shame.

              2. NoNoNoNoNo*

                I taught my son (he would be 30 now) to say dome verdion of “would you like/can I offer you some help [with that]/to sit?”

                It was a lesson he took to heart (eyewitnesses telling me about him at timed I wasnt present to see for myself) apparently.

                He told me it made it easier for him to feel comfortable offering help without implying anything negative.

            2. Oceans*

              Same! I donated bone marrow last year and experienced complications that made me very light-headed and weak for quite awhile afterward. On my busy commutes to work, I’d try to stand as long as I could but it was a long bus ride!

              It was *always* kids on their way to school who would offer me their seat and make sure I was okay. People my own age and older? Never. They’d just nervously look in my direction instead.

              1. Pickle*

                Yup, when I was heavily pregnant during a Tube strike in a heatwave, so the few trains that were running were even more full than usual, it was 20-something young women who pushed me through the crowds to where the seats were and shouted over the crowd’s heads, “there’s a pregnant lady over here – can someone give her a seat?”

                Over the course of the pregnancy, I found it was blue collar men, and young women, who gave up their seats to me. Men in suits? Not a chance.

            3. EAH*

              Anon for this: I’m so sorry to be off topic, but as another religious AAM reader with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome are there a lot of us here?? I was very recently diagnosed with EDS-H and I have not found anyone who has even heard of it outside of specific EDS support groups!

          3. rubyrose*

            Yes to this! I was in Salt Lake a couple of weeks ago and got on the light rail with my very heavy bag, going to the airport. A young man around 17 who was talking to his friends got up and offered me his seat. He was occupied with his friends, but he was aware of what was going on around him.

            1. Noobtastic*

              Some of the kindest people I know are still young. They have not yet been beaten into jaded submission by life.

              Also, I like the comment about “they have not yet learned the etiquette.” Sometimes, people really want to help, but overthink it, in fear that their kindness will be taken the wrong way, because they didn’t know the right way to do it, and that fear freezes them.

              We need more etiquette books for kids. Why are almost all the etiquette books written for adults?

          4. Bagpuss*

            Yes, I don’t think rudeness or being self-absorbed is limited to one age group, but I do think that ‘young people’ or ‘teenagers’ are lumped together and judged on the actions of a few, far more so than other age groups. My personal experience has been that although a teen / young person may not notice you or offer a seat, they are often fine if you actually ask or suggest it, whereas I’ve seen older people do what the OP did and deliberately ignore a request.

            When I was last travelling on the tube in London with my parents (who are in their early 70s but both in good health) my mum was offered a seat on every single train, and all those who offered were (judging by appearance) in the 15-21 age range. My dad and I were also offered seats about half the time, and again, it was always younger people and almost always young men/boys.

            London Underground do have a ‘baby on board’ badge scheme where pregnant women can request a pin-badge to wear, to help avoid the ‘is she fat or pregnant’ conundrum, and they’ve recently launched a new one reading ‘please offer me a seat’ which those who find it hard to stand can request, which I think is great for those with invisible disabilities.

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              I have the ‘please offer me a seat’ one – I was one of the first to get it as I took part in a pilot / test of it. It also clues staff in that you might need help.

              1. michelenyc*

                They are supposed to be starting the badge program on the NYC subway. I haven’t seen anyone wearing one yet so I am not sure when it actually starts.

          5. Marty*

            I think much of this has to do with maturity, which older people have had more time to develop. Certainly, some younger people avoid self absorption, but it is an attribute that tends to decline with age.

          6. Donna Freedman*

            While riding a Seattle bus I noticed a teen-age girl (maybe 15 or 16) get on with her younger sister (maybe 10 or 11). She was short on the bus fare by about 50 cents and bus driver said, “Don’t worry about it,” but by then I was on my feet with a couple of quarters.

            The older girl said, “Thank you, ma’am” and she and her sister collapsed onto the first two seats of the bus. Both looked very tired.

            Next stop: an older couple got on. The older girl leaped to her feet and, when her sister didn’t move quickly enough to suit her she tapped the child on the shoulder and said, “Move! Those older folks need a seat!”

            So yeah, it’s not necessarily age that determines decent behavior.

        2. Nevertheless*

          I think this is because people who have needed help in the past are better able to spot and see others who need help, and understand how big of a help it can be.

        3. Oceans*

          I will *always* offer my seat to someone who might need it more than I do–pregnant women, older people, someone who looks like they’ve had a reaaaaally long day at work, whatever– but far too many older individuals get offended that I’ve even offered. “What, you think I look like I can’t stand?”

          It doesn’t keep me from offering, but it sure doesn’t feel great to be chastised for trying to do the right thing.

        4. Uberflieger*

          Eh. 50s are far from elderly. Without some kind of health issue, I don’t think she can reasonable expect people to surrender seats to her.

      2. (another) b*

        In my area (Philly) I have noticed a lot of people giving up their seats and being very courteous, which is great. A few times I had to stand (with decent shoes on that day so I was ok) and a few men offered me their seat. It was nice of them but I declined.

        1. Mabel*

          I had someone offer me his seat, but I couldn’t figure out why. I think the top I was wearing that day made me look pregnant – unless I looked really tired or something that day…

            1. Rebecca in Dallas*

              Yes, I live in the South, it’s very common for men to offer their seats to women regardless of apparent pregnancy status or age! Very chivalrous, but I honestly don’t mind standing, especially if I am getting off after only a couple of stops.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I was going to say this! It’s been my experience that, in some regions/neighborhoods, young men (particularly young men of color) are taught/encouraged to give up their seats to women, full stop.

              1. Emi.*

                In my area, black men (of all ages) frequently step back and let women get on the bus first.

                1. Noobtastic*

                  Yeah. Black men get a bad rap. I’ve noted a whole lot of courtesy from black men.

                  Also, if a black man sees a white person disrespecting their mother, WOW. This is a thing to which they will react.

                  And yet, so many white people, and especially white women, are taught by their white parents that these black men are dangerous and to be avoided. The bigotry still lives on. It’s just that people are usually less vocal about it in public, because they don’t want to be judged harshly as bigots. Because they KNOW it’s wrong. Or even if they think the bigotry is right, they know there will be consequences, if they are caught at it.

                  Go figure.

          1. I used to be Murphy*

            I’ve had that happen. I hadn’t been pregnant for about 18 months at the time, but you better believe I took the damn seat!

      3. always in email jail*

        I’ve had too many cases of the elderly person being offended that I offered them a seat to be proactive enough to offer it, but I would certainly give it up if they asked.

      4. orangesandlemons*

        I agree that this happens, and probably more often than it should. However, I feel it’s also unfortunate when someone assumes that a stranger is able-bodied because they are young and don’t appear to be disabled or unwell.

        1. JRAnnoyed (a little) at Past Me*

          Yep, as someone diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis 15 years ago, with my knees most affected, standing on public transit is an express ticket to Painville, specifically the Agonizing and Swollen Knees stop. When I was 18 and not obviously unwell or disabled, I got the worst looks for sitting on the subway during rush hour. I would stand when it was full rather than ask for a seat, but honestly, I should have asked. My pride should not have trumped the actual physical pain and continued injury.

        2. The OG Anonsie*

          Yeah, whenever I’ve been in a priority seat and they’re all full and an elderly person has gotten on the bus, I get very anxious. I want to shout “I ACTUALLY NEED TO SIT DOWN, I’M NOT A JERK” to the whole bus because I know there are eyes on me.

          I’ve considered keeping my cane with me even on days I didn’t need it just as a way of making an announcement, but then I have to walk with it or else the assumption will be that I’m actually actively faking being disabled…

          1. Noobtastic*

            Yeah, as annoying as the obvious markers of a non-inviable disability are, they do have a certain advantage.

            Also, I am learning to love my gray hairs, because “sweet little old lady” often gets better treatment than “young person with an invisible disability.”

            1. NightShifter*

              I broke my back 8 years ago. I have nerve damage and chronic pain that makes my right leg and foot almost entirely numb and causes severe, sharp pain in my back, especially when standing and walking. The numbness in my foot makes keeping my balance hard, especially in a moving vehicle. I’m petrified of falling now too, since something as simple as a fall could lead to paralysis.
              I have a disabled parking permit for my car, but I dread having to use buses or trains, because I don’t look obviously disabled and I look younger than I am. Even worse, my meds and my pain-caused lower level of activity have led me to gain weight since my accident, and there is soooo much judgement out there surrounding the perception of ‘lazy fat person’ that many times I have made the choice to stand rather than risk some ass making a nasty comment or a bus full of judgey-eyes.
              There are so many toxic messages in our culture. Really, life would be improved for everyone if we were all a little kinder and more forgiving of our fellow human beings.

      5. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

        I do agree with you that plenty of people are rude and disrespectful to those who need seating but I have to make the mandatory comment “not all (young) disabled people look disabled”

        I look and am young and able-bodied but my blood pressure tanks and my pulse spikes when standing up for long periods of time. I try to sit when I can to avoid getting dizzy and also to spare my heart. (All well under control with the help of my docs) but it’s annoying.

        I would of course give my seat up to someone obviously in need but I’m sure plenty of people have wondered why I stay seated.

        I also can’t sit comfortably on the ground – or rather, I can but I just think it’s SO uncomfortable so I always have to ask for a chair or at least something I can lean against.
        During a company retreat with meditation (on yoga mats) last year, the pregnant people and I were the only ones to sit in chairs instead of the floor.

        1. Nevertheless*

          Thank you for saying this. I have people dear to me who got sick very young with very serious illnesses that were/are not visible. I’ve had to go to bat for them on more than one occasion because an “arbiter” decided they did not look ill enough for the disabled parking spot/seat/etc. Few things make me more furious.

          1. NoNoNoNoNo*

            Im not “young” (54) but not old either.

            I have multiple invisible disabilities. I get soooo many dirty looks using my blue parking placard.

            I take -forever- to get out/in the car.
            One would think people could figure it out, but no wherlchair, no disability…apparently.

            Now, when someone has the nerve to challenge me I tell them to call a cop and just go on my way.

            I do worry someone will key my car or something, but so far so good.

        2. JeanB in NC*

          I also have to ask for chairs in floor-sitting situations – I have terrible knees and can’t get up from the floor. Even when young and skinny, I would almost always need a hand up from the floor.

          1. Professional Merchandiser*

            It’s funny you mentioning needing a hand up when sitting on the floor. In my line of work (merchandising) I am frequently sitting on the floor to reach low shelves, and standing on my tool box to reach high ones. You would not BELIEVE how many people will offer me a hand . One time I was practically bellied out on the floor trying to retrieve an item that rolled underneath, and several people thought I had fallen and were trying to help me up. I always thank them politely and explain what I’m doing. It makes me feel a bit odd if it’s someone older than me making the offer (I’m 66) but I’m glad to know there are still kind people in the world who will offer help to a stranger.

        3. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

          Ach, I realized I phrased myself in an unclear way (as usual…)

          I would OFFER my seat to someone in obvious need and I would give up my seat if someone asked me.

          (But I might not offer everyone a seat. I realize now that making assumptions like that sounds fairly ableist. But I guess for practicality’s sake, I have to assume that someone who needs a seat and isn’t offered one will ask for one. anyway. Side note.)

      6. Themiscyra*

        I had to start using a cane last year – I can go for short periods without it, and don’t usually need it at home, but do need it for extended walking or standing and sometimes stairs, so I tend to keep it with me to avoid wearing myself out. And of course some days are worse than others. It hasn’t exactly been shocking to me, but it has been disappointing to see how many people will look right at me and still stay in their seats without apology. Or how many people will brush past me and drop right into the one open seat without a word. Even when I’m shaking against my cane or straining to hold onto the straps. At this point, I don’t even really remember the people who ignore me; it’s the ones who get up who actually draw my attention.

        I suppose I could ask more, but I admit that in the war between ask culture vs. guess culture, I tend to land on the side of guess. And the cane is something I’m still getting used to and I still feel guilty somehow about even needing it.

    5. Sfigato*

      Also, a really busy train isn’t always conducive to getting work done. Accommodating other passengers takes priority over you using that time to do research/grade papers/return emails/bust out sick code. I realize it is really nice to be able to use commute time to get work done, but it’s not always possible.

  3. Dee-Nice*

    LW, what would you even say if you were to complain to HR about this? “I would’ve been nicer if I’d known the woman was the CEO’s wife?” You don’t even have any way of knowing for sure that that is in fact why you didn’t get the job. (Though I agree it certainly seems that way.)

    Does anyone else find it strange that HR repeatedly told LW that he would definitely get an offer? Is this something that happens? I’ve heard of people giving strong hints but didn’t think it was professional to tell someone they’d gotten a job before it was official.

    1. K.*

      Right – the implication is that LW would have been nice if she’d known not being nice would have negative consequences for her, which … doesn’t sound great.

      1. Antilles*

        Yep. The only other potential argument LW could make is that it shouldn’t matter – but then HR will just respond that they consider candidates as whole people and cultural fits. Which is completely legal – a company can decide not to hire you for essentially any reason they like unless that reason is specifically prohibited by law (e.g., age, gender, race).

        1. Chatterby*

          The only pushback I can see the LW exercising is if it was fairly obvious the woman had asked due to a protected status. Such as, if he was the only young man sitting in a sea of women, she may have approached him since men are culturally expected to stand and offer their seats. Or if LW was a tiny white/Asian/minority girl who was only asked to move because the woman thought she could push the LW around or felt the other passengers were too intimidating to ask.
          But this would be super hard to impossible to prove and would require a formal suit to enforce.
          If it was a government job, it might be argued that behavior outside of work falls under ‘free speech’ protections, and the CEO was in the wrong for using it against her, but again, next to impossible to hold up unless you want a drawn out, career-ruining, and extremely expensive legal battle which would end as soon as the CEO says he passed on the LW due to job skills or such, which is reasonable since it’s an entry level position. And it has long been established that private companies are perfectly allowed to police their employee’s public behavior off-hours.
          The HR complaint could be worded along the line of concern that the CEO was allowing himself to be unduly and unfairly influenced by forces outside of his company. Which would alarm HR and may result in them pulling the CEO in for a chat. But as soon as they uncover that the outside influence is his wife, rather than a competitor, HR will resent feeling stupid and the CEO will be angry.
          So yeah, nothing you can really do.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            “The only pushback I can see the LW exercising is if it was fairly obvious the woman had asked due to a protected status. ”
            But…. in non-business, interpersonal interactions, this does not apply. Let’s assume for this that LW is male, surrounded on the train by women in seats, and the CEO’s wife asked the LW, specifically because he is male, to give up his seat.
            She’s allowed to do that. It’s not that “this would be super hard to impossible to prove and would require a formal suit to enforce” – it is that there is no law against people having individual prejudices. She couldn’t make hiring decisions based on gender, but she can decide to ask someone on a train to stand because he is male.

            (NOT saying that it’s great to act based on gender roles, etc – just that the anti-discrimination laws don’t address that, and there is not a suit you could bring, even if you could prove she asked him to stand because he was male)

            Sorry for the derail. Just wanted to mention. Especially because LW apparently felt, well, entitled to the job, and was looking for a way to push back, I do not want LW to get the impression that there is ANY push back that is possible.

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              Ack. However, I just realized LW is probably not in the US (“finishing university” sounds European to my ears), and my knowledge of non-US law is zero. So, I guess I might be totally wrong and I retract my comment. Who knows. I don’t want to speculate about what is/isn’t legal in other countries so let’s pretend my comment never happened :-)

    2. deets*

      I also found that strange, and I have never heard of a final interview – especially with the CEO! – that is just a formality. I wonder if OP read too much into positive feedback from HR / other internal folks? That’s an easy mistake to make right out of college, as is the OP’s feeling that their performance in the internship should override a poor character reference.

      1. Dee-Nice*

        Oh, that’s a good characterization of what happened: “a poor character reference.” Good performance aside, if you were evaluating an applicant and received a poor reference from a highly trusted source, it would be understandable if you didn’t want to hire that person. LW, as crappy as the situation is, maybe re-framing it in this light will help you come to terms with what (may have) happened here.

      2. CEMgr*

        My first job out of college featured a “formality only” interview with the 2 founders/co-CEOs – Dean Watkins and Richard Johnson of Watkins-Johnson. The hiring decision had already been made, but the offer was not yet extended in writing, and these two kindly old gentleman just did a really softball, “getting to know you, know that you’re joining” kind of interview. They had a firm policy to meet and speak with everyone who was joining the technical staff. I got the impression it would have been very hard to fail that interview (although still possible, I’m sure).

        So it does happen.

        1. Malibu Stacey*

          Yeah, I have worked places where it wouldn’t be unheard of. It can depend on the nature of the role and size of the company, too.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Definitely! This kind of thing happens … but if you’d, say, named-called one of them and spilled your coffee on their carpet without moving to clean it up, that might have changed the outcome. It’s basically a rubber-stamp, yes, but with the opportunity to say “hey, wait, no” if for some reason they have a strong objection.

          1. Karen D*

            Yep, I nearly blew a plum assignment with a “just a formality” lunch interview.

            Nobody told me how much the CEO’s wife detested cats.

            1. Zombeyonce*

              Now I’m intrigued. Did you take a cat to lunch? Were you wearing a sweater covered in pictures of cats? Was your shirt made of cat hair? What was it?!

            2. Anne (with an "e")*

              I agree with Zombeyonce. Please give us more “catty” details. Did you try to gift the CEO with an adorable kitten? Did you show hs wife one too many funny cat memes? Inquiring minds want to know.

      3. Artemesia*

        Nothing is ever ‘just a formality.’ You can blow the job search at any moment. This time it happened on a train.

        1. JessaB*

          I remember a game show awhile ago, it only ran for one season, and it was a bunch of people in a house doing all kinds of tasks and things. Mark Cuban was running it and the prize was a pretty hefty amount of money. The details are sketchy but he told them in the first interview/tell the audience who they are and why they’re there speech, that they would be playing this game 24/7. He disqualified one person because of stuff they did later in the show, that was not a task FOR the show, because it kind of showed the person off as an embellisher and not being honest about their talents. The person was shocked, and he showed him the tape of him explaining that he was going to judge everything, including how you interacted outside the game.

          So yes everything they are able to find out about you counts. As long as it’s not protected class characteristics, they can reject you because of the boss’ wife, or the fact you came to the last meeting in a purple dress, when the boss despises purple for some reason. A lot of people have written to AAM when they lost jobs and opportunities because of posts on Facebook (especially people in academia and K12 teachers.

      4. Peanut*

        I worked at a place where everyone had to “interview” with the CEO as a formality. In this case, candidates often didn’t meet the CEO until the first day they started at the company, and the meeting was less than 5 minutes long, more of a “hi, nice to meet you.”

        That being said, I think no one got the official offer letter until after the meeting, though salary and start date were all discussed and agreed upon before then. I suppose the CEO could still have rescinded an offer at that point, but it never happened. Maybe it was done this way because our particular CEO was a highly paid idiot.

        1. JessaB*

          Heck I got hired and worked a full shift before I met the owner of the company on one job. Partly because I had a metric tonne of experience, partly because Mr B did some temp work for him. But yep, got hired and went on shift with another agent to train me. Then I met him. Very weird. I suppose I was lucky he didn’t decide to hate me. I had already given notice at my prior job.

    3. lulu*

      I agree she should reach out to HR. But on telling an applicant that they are definitely getting on offer, I don’t find it that weird, considering she’s an intern or a trainee, so something of an inside candidate, a known quantity, and they don’t want her accepting another offer.

    4. Curious*

      Yes, my job was like this. Interview with CEO lasted ten minutes and I was told beforehand it was just a formality, which it turned out to be.

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        People often see things like this as a “formality” because in the past, this type of interview has not “vetoed” the recommendation to hire. That does not mean it is in actually a formality. It just means that generally the CEO trusts his/her people and did not see any reason to over rule. In this case, it sounds like the CEO did have additional information on the candidate which was taken into account.

        Generally, no one should EVER tell someone that they have a job offer unless you are actually presenting a job offer.

        1. Samata*

          I think another good rule for candidate is no one should every assume they have secured a job until they are actually presented with a job offer.

      2. Amber T*

        When I was interviewing (coming on as a receptionist), I was told I’d be interviewing with the CIO and CFO as a “formality” (it was described to me that they just wanted to meet me and get a feel for my character). Luckily, my recruiter gave me the advice to take it just as seriously and prepare for it as I would a regular interview, and it turned out just that. The two of them could have -absolutely- told the hiring manager not to hire me if they didn’t like me. In the interview, I was told I was the top candidate and they’d likely be extending me an offer, but they were still interviewing and needed to be in touch with my references.

        Two rules of thumb – never assume you have the job until you have the offer in your hand, and treat every interview seriously, even if it’s just a “formality.”

          1. M-C*

            Absolutely. I know someone who maintains that those ‘informal’, ‘just a phone call’ calls are not interviews. They absolutely are, and her not taking them seriously is why she has not gotten a live interview afterwards..

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              Yes! The phone screen is where the committee / hiring manager determines whether you are worth an in-person interview. Of course it’s serious!

              Apologies to the people who hate over-use of exclamation points, but I have a lot of feelings about this. :-)

            2. Talia*

              Yes, and I always take them seriously, but when they call you with no warning and go “Hey, this is the company you just applied to, have you got time to talk for twenty minutes about the job?” I can certainly see why someone might have difficulty treating it seriously!

          2. Artemesia*

            We did a phone screen to choose finalists for an academic position and I asked one of the candidates something like ‘one of the courses you would be handling is a leadership class in the masters program. Who are a couple of the scholars or theorists in the leadership field that you would want your students to be familiar with?’ He actually said ‘oh I didn’t know that this was going to be a test, I’d have to prepare further.’ He was trying to get a job teaching in a leadership/OD program and could not even fake it enough to discuss a couple of theorists or researchers in this broad domain. He could’t even pick someone he had read and squeeze it into the question sideways. He had a PhD in a related area. I was sort of stunned. I mean, couldn’t you come up with someone and something to a question like this in any field — it might not be a great choice, but something?

            1. JessaB*

              Wait a test? If this is the person’s field shouldn’t they know this stuff off hand?

        1. Shona*

          What with background checks and so forth, I don’t assume I have the job until I’ve been through orientation and am sitting at my new desk.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Ha. I assume a wee bit earlier in the process: when I have an offer letter AND a start date.

            1. Lindsay J*

              Start date, time, and location for me. Date something could still go wrong or be up in the air or they could ghost.

              Once I have all the details, I know they can’t ghost me at least.

              Though this is absolutely post-background check clearing. I have no reason to believe that I wouldn’t pass a background, but you never know.

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I’m a recruiter and I was trying to place someone in a position. They got through the first two rounds of interviews with flying colors and had a “just a formality” meeting with the CEO.

        He wore a zipped up sweatshirt hoodie over his clothes and did not take it off during the meeting. The CEO decided he wasn’t getting the position.

        1. Audiophile*


          I’m sorry what person hears the words “just a formality” and dresses down that much? You’re still interviewing. I can’t fathom that.

          1. Lindsay J*

            If he’s young I could see him thinking that it wasn’t any different than wearing a jacket (which, ideally, you would also take off but maybe he didn’t think he was given an appropriate time to).

            I could see myself doing this in my younger days. Wear hoodie instead of jacket because it’s cold but not that cold. Get to office, CEO meets you at the door and you shake hands. You get to the chair and he beckons you to sit down. You’re a little intimidated and awkward and don’t want to have a minute of silence go by as he waits for you to take it off and arrange it on the chair. So you keep it on instead.

            Not that any of that is an excuse, but I can definitely see it happening with a younger candidate. For a job that doesn’t require a lot of polish I wouldn’t necessarily hold it against them if I were doing the interview. (Assuming they appeared to have dressed nicely otherwise. If they’re wearing smart dress pants and shoes that’s one thing. If they’ve got on jeans and sneakers or their outfit is wrinkled or ripped or otherwise ratty looking then no.)

            However, an interview with the CEO might indicate a much higher level of position than I am used to hiring for.

      4. The Optimizer*

        I once had several interviews for an relatively low level position: one with the person I’d be replacing, the person I’d be working side by side with, the manager, her boss (VP) and the CEO. Though the CEO part was supposedly “just a formality” I would later find out that he really did have the final say in all hiring decisions. It was a small and very successful company. The CEO felt very strongly that everyone had to get along in order to keep things running smoothly and if he didn’t feel your personality would mesh with the rest, then you were out.

    5. BananaPants*

      I was a summer intern for my current employer twice, and at my final exit interview before graduation (in August), HR came out and said, “Expect to see your offer letter by Christmas.” Our interns know that this is the company’s practice. This is NOT the norm, though.

    6. neverjaunty*

      I wondered about that too. “I didn’t quite have the skills to be the top candidate, and the HR recruiter oversold my chances” may be far less personally satisfying than “that vindictive woman ruined the opportunity that was rightfully mine!” But it’s far more likely to be true.

      (I mean, for the karma story to be true, we’d need to assume that the HR person was right about the top level interview being a mere formality, that the CEO’s wife just happening to be in the same elevator led to her realizing the OP was an interviewee and giving her spouse feedback about what happened…)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        They could still be in consideration despite the lesser abilities, if someone decided they were worth taking a chance on. But even if you have mad skills for whatever the job is, you can still blow it if you aren’t careful. It’s much easier to teach someone how to do actual work than to train them to not be a jerk or a slacker or whatever.

    7. (another) b*

      Another lesson here is that nothing is guaranteed until you get that offer letter. Never assume you’re getting the job until you get the job.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think well upwards of 90% of the time, “just a formality” translates to “most of the times this happened in the past, the top person didn’t overrule their report’s decision” rather than “there is literally nothing you can do to blow this.”

        1. Confused Teapot Maker*

          +1 and I think a lot of people learn that the hard way (or at least know somebody who has and has the message passed on)

    8. Badmin*

      I think hearing “you’ll get an offer” should be replaced with “you’ll get an offer assuming everything goes well until then (after informal interview or whatever the last step is)” Anything could happen like this letter writer’s situation, you get arrested, social media post goes viral? or any sort of curve ball.

  4. Spreadsheets and Books*

    Yikes. Being kind to others in need should be an ever-present part of life, no matter where you’re sitting.

    Take this as a lesson, LW. Character always matters, and respecting others means more than an ability to handle a few job tasks.

  5. AvonLady Barksdale*

    Amen to all of this, Alison. OP, your behavior was not nice, to say the least, and how one behaves in public among strangers can be a real indicator of their character. I used to work in Times Square, and anyone who walks through there on a regular basis knows how trying it can be. I remember very clearly the day I realized that if I said something rude to a stranger and an SVP walked by, it could reflect really poorly on me even outside the building. If I were interviewing someone and he/she was rude to the waitstaff, that would be a mark against the candidate.

    I do question whether this is the sole or primary reason you didn’t get the job– there could be other factors at play– but as Alison says, this is a great lesson in how to conduct oneself professionally while out in the world.

    1. CM*

      Yes, I used to be a road-ragey driver in my early 20s and once gave somebody the middle finger… only to see them pull into my work parking lot right in front of me! I hid in my car for a few minutes before going into the building so they wouldn’t see me, and learned that day to be much more polite to strangers. I was lucky that there were no consequences other than feeling ashamed and embarrassed.

  6. What time is it? Showtime*

    “Suddenly, I was approached by a lady who asked me, rather rudely, to give my seat to a man, her father, who was travelling with her.”

    There’s nothing here that says the man was infirm. It seems like the woman just wanted a seat for her father, and she asked for the seat rudely. I have to say, unless I saw that the man was elderly, injured or seemed unable to balance well, I probably would have ignored the request too. My desire to sit there is as strong as your desire for your father to sit there. There are ways to nicely ask someone if they’ll give up their seats. Rudeness is not one of those ways.

    1. Here we go again*

      This stood out to me too. If someone else started the rudeness, I totally get why OP reacted the way she did. It sucks that it’s such a small world, but I can’t fault the OP for being miffed about all of this and not caring about how she treated the wife, since it seems like the wife started it.

        1. Here we go again*

          I agree it’s not, but people don’t always act rationally when confronted in these situations because they are thrown off guard.

          There are also a lot of assumptions about how old the father “must be,” how old the wife “must be” based on the how old the CEO “must be” that people are ignoring the fact that based on the OP’s account, the other woman did start it.

          It sucks for the OP and I think it is a good lesson for her, but I do think people are being harsh given what we **know**…

        2. Kathleen Adams*

          Refusing the seat to an elderly man is bad…but completely ignoring the person making the request is worse. Much worse. By doing that, you’re saying “Your request is of so little importance to me that I’m not even going to acknowledge it.” That’s…pretty cold, IMO. You can with perfect propriety ignore guys whistling at you on the street, aggressive begging, or other outlandish requests. But someone asking for a seat for someone else, even if they do so rather brusquely? No.

          1. EleonoraUK*

            This – refusing to give up your seat is selfish, but not even responding is just plain rude. Not a great mix.

            1. Stop That Goat*

              Ignoring someone being rude to you in the first place doesn’t strike me as that odd.

              1. CityMouse*

                Even if the person they are asking for needs help? Say someone rudely asks you where the bathroom is for their kid. You going to let the kid suffer because mom or dad didn’t ask in a way you liked?

              2. Natalie*

                I would find it quite odd to ignore a direct question because the person was rude, assuming they were within the standard spectrum of rudeness and not screaming obscenities the second they opened their mouth. If someone is at the level of warranting the cut direct, I probably wouldn’t even think of them as “rude”, per se.

              3. Mike B.*

                Even if someone is barking orders at you, as an able-bodied and healthy person, your response should be to agree. She might be overstating how much her father needs to sit, or he might be doing a good job of concealing how difficult it is for him to stand.

                Her perceived rudeness was not relevant to whether her father needed that seat. Refusing the request was even more egregious.

                If they had had this exchange in some other context not involving the woman’s father, though, it still might have ended up the same way for OP. It’s a poor idea to return rudeness with rudeness, because “they started it” is not an excuse that hiring managers are likely to accept.

              1. Kathleen Adams*

                There I disagree with you. There are times when people are “entitled” to your time. Maybe this is one of them, maybe it is not (I think it is, but there is some room for disagreement there), but if someone has a reasonable request, I think you do indeed owe them the courtesy of a response.

                Is this a big city vs. smaller city town thing? I don’t think so, but maybe so.

      1. Kms1025*

        We’re taking the rude person’s word that they were approached rudely? I am sorry but their point of view is suspect but their actions speak for themselves, quite loudly. And I don’t believe in coincidences, but “coincidentally” the intern bumped this very same person with a greasy bike? C’mon!

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Exactly. I know we give OP’s the benefit of the doubt, but (1) there are several scenarios in which it’s possible that the woman was not rude, at least not on the level of OP’s reaction, or (2) despite brusqueness/rudeness, the OP’s reaction was still inappropriate. I feel like we have an unreliable narrator on this letter.

        2. Sas*

          No, Kms, people are taking the letter writer at their word as they have been requested to do so. That is truly why this blog bothers me. It is one sided to an extreme sometimes.
          I am on the side of people saying they wouldn’t respond to a rude request. I don’t know where you all live but people do that ALL THE TIME WHERE I LIVE. Right? Wrong? Are you ever ignoring people when you have had a rough day? Ever? Most people do that sort of thing when they know the person even. The Ceo wife could have taken a cab. There are other options. Which isn’t to say they should have to. If you are on a bus, also, bikes, coats, things might touch you. The wife seems like the inappropriate one. Not to get that buses have these problems, engaging with the public doesn’t have problems. Who later assumes the worst from one moment when they were also rude and takes that so far as to not give someone an opportunity for a job. Yikes! Maybe she is free of sin!

    2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      I agree that it’s not great that the request was made rudely, but an infirmity doesn’t need to be visible to be legitimate.

      1. Edith*

        And we’ll never know because instead of speaking to the woman the OP just ignored her, which to me is the real problem.

        1. What time is it? Showtime*

          You run into enough rude people on the train who like to escalate stuff, you learn that ignoring them is often the easier way to go.

            1. Spreadsheets and Books*

              I routinely flee subway cars when I see what I assume are showtime performers. Can never be to careful. My day has no time for being kicked in the head.

            2. Optimistic Prime*

              I dunno, I think the mariachi band is worse, but “Showtime” is definitely next on the list.

              1. bohtie*

                This has nothing to do with anything, but I just want to tell this story: one time my ex was being accosted by a very aggressive panhandler who was getting up in his face, threatening him, spitting on him, all this stuff. (And my ex, while fairly meek once you get to know him, is a HUGE guy, like almost six and a half feet tall and looks like a Hells Angel crossed with a refrigerator, so you have to be in a certain place in life to think that’s a good idea.) We’re quietly panicking, trying to figure out what to do, and then a mariachi band got on the train, looked at us, and literally surrounded the yelling aggressive dude and just played directly at him and drowned him out until he got off at the next stop. And that is why I will always have a soft spot for mariachi bands.

          1. Jesca*

            I don’t think the point here is comparing who was more “rude”, or who started it, or whose fault it was. The point is that no one in society operates on such black and white moral codes. And that what you choose to do every day may impact you later. Younger me would be like this OP and bristle. Or be like other comments here and shout “its not fair! She start it!”. But older me would just shrug it off. I canno say I am perfect, just like I cannot say I live in a perfect and fair world. If a potential imployer say me be rude or “lose it” public and decided not to offer me the job despite the circumstances that *caused* me to react, then that is life. It is unfortunate, but it is life. This isn’t about fairness. Its about that grey area of the saying “do you want to be right, or do you want to be loved”.

            1. Jesca*

              Ahg I have so many issues with this site!

              *If a potential employer saw me be rude or “lose it” in public and

            2. ThursdaysGeek*

              ‘Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood – “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me. ‘

              1. thebluecastle*

                I love that movie (Harvey for those of yall who don’t know). My dad always quotes it to me. Its such good advice.

              2. Lindsay J*

                The older I get, the more true I find this to be. I would chose to work with the less smart but more pleasant person in almost every situation.

          2. Ann O. Nymous*

            Yeah, if OP knew what she was asking and still didn’t respond I think that’s rude, but I certainly think it’s fine in some cases to ignore people who talk to you on the train. As a woman who takes the metro daily, I keep my headphones in and my music loud and generally ignore people trying to talk to me, unless they’re asking for a seat (which I’ll give to them, although I usually stand up and move if the train is full and I see someone who clearly needs a seat) or handing me something I’ve dropped. I’ve had way too many obnoxious, creepy, scary things said to me on public transit that I default to ignoring people/not responding to them unless it’s patently clear through body language/their age or disability that they need my seat.

            This is all to say that while I think OP was rude in this situation, I don’t think you owe everyone a response/the time of day when you’re on the train, and sometimes people may come off as rude as a way to insulate themselves from a potentially shitty metro interaction.

            1. the_scientist*

              Absolutely. I’m also a woman who takes crowded public transit daily and has been subjected to numerous creepy, scary or otherwise obnoxious things. As a result I am generally pretty wary in my interactions, which could be seen as stand-offish. But like you said, this situation is materially different.

      2. Gen*

        As someone with a serious disability that’s only visible by X-ray thank you for saying this. I’ve been removed from ‘disabled’ seats in the past because I look too healthy until I try to walk

      3. BananaPants*

        The fact that OP had a bicycle with her makes it a fairly safe bet that she’s not so infirm as to be unable to stand. And ignoring the request completely was truly tacky.

        1. Rainy, PI*

          Not a safe assumption. My disabled late husband could and did ride a bike (and was encouraged by his doctor) but could not stand or walk for long periods of time, since he was disabled and had chronic pain and muscle weakness. If our city had had public transit, he would have needed a seat.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Okay, but it would be a reasonable assumption for someone to assume he was a good prospect for asking for the seat. He could then have explained that in fact he did need the seat, which is an acceptably polite response if true.

            1. What time is it? Showtime*

              See, I’d see this person and think they were *NOT* a good candidate to ask to move, because it probably took some finesse to get the bike nestled in so that it wasn’t bothering people. Especially if the train was crowded, asking the person with the bike (or the stroller or the birthday cake or seven shopping bags piled on top of them) seems like a disaster because it’s going to take them so long to rearrange themselves in an unobtrusive matter. Ask the person who is carrying nothing to move, and for goodness’ sake, ask them politely. “Excuse me, my father can’t stand for long periods. Could he please have your seat? Thank you so much.” There’s no need to yell or to shoot mean looks or to say “Can’t you see my dad needs your seat? Get up, you lazy entitled millennial!” or “Give my dad your seat!” or anything of the like.

              1. Sadsack*

                We know nothing about everyone else on the train. It could have been that they were near the disabled seating and they were all full, so OP was the first person nearby who seemed like a good candidate to ask. It actually doesn’t matter. The fact is OP ignored that there was an older person (we don’t know how old) who needed his seat and then knowingly messed up the woman’s coat and ignored that, too. There’s no coming back from that now.

              2. OxfordComma*

                But the LW didn’t even respond to the request. Instead the LW ignored her. And we don’t actually know how close the LW was to the LW’s bike. It could have been at the front of the car. But again, regardless, the LW chose to ignore the person asking. Which was rude no matter how you slice it.

                Then the LW damaged/stained the CEO’s wife’s coat apparently without acknowledgement or apology. It’s only now when a job is on the line that the LW is apparently considering offering to pay for the dry cleaning and to apologize.

              3. good point*

                In some cities, you’re not even permitted to have a bike on the train during rush hour. If it’s the case in this city, it’s just another example of the OP’s entitled behavior.

              4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Where are you getting the “no need to yell or shoot mean looks or to say…” lines? Because we don’t know what happened, but I have a feeling none of those things occurred when this woman asked if her father could sit where OP was seated. (I’ll leave aside the bike notes, because as others have noted, a lot of public transit systems have specific rules for bikers that do not allow them to arrange their bike in a cumbersome manner.)

                This just seems like an awful lot of conjecture to justify bad/rude behavior. OP was entitled to respond however they wanted to, but there are also consequences for those responses. The consequence, here, was that OP’s conduct did not reflect well on their character (they may have excellent character, but the train interaction does not reflect that at all).

            2. Rainy, PI*

              I don’t object to the asking, I object to the assumption that if someone “has X” or “looks like Y” or “is doing Z” then they are able to stand. 100%, ask if you need to! But don’t feel entitled to their seat because of your assumptions. :)

              (I’m one of those absurdly youthful looking people who has incredibly bad joints, so I sometimes get asked for my seat on days when I can barely haul myself out of it because my hip arthritis is so painful and/or my knees don’t really function as knees, so I have a dog in this particular fight.)

          2. hayling*

            I remember someone in the town I grew up with who rode around on a recumbent bike towing his wheelchair. I was always curious what his disability was that he could ride a bike but not walk (or walk much). The human body is so interesting!

            1. Rainy, PI*

              My late husband rode a recumbent with his cane strapped across the back rack. He couldn’t stand well and couldn’t really walk for very long at a time even with the cane, but routinely biked 30-50 mile days. The exercise was extremely beneficial for his chronic pain and his pancreatic damage, and because he was cycling, his strong side could make up for his hemiparesis in way that wasn’t possible walking.

              It’s possible the person you remember had some similar condition.

        2. Merula*

          This is not necessarily true. There are disabilities that can make biking easier than walking or sitting. My husband has one, and it’s not something that’s visually apparent.

          Still, if the OP needed a seat for something other than reading, I assume she would have said that. She did offer reasons for not moving (rude request, needing to read) but didn’t mention a physical disability, which would seem fairly conclusive by itself without bringing the bike into it.

          1. Sarah*

            Yes, it would be 100% acceptable to say “I’m so sorry, I’m actually not able to stand on the train because of a sprained ankle/joint issues/a blood pressure problem/whatever.” That’s a very different scenario than what happened here. I also don’t think there’s any need to speculate about a million possible disabilities the OP could potentially have since presumably those would have been mentioned in the letter if present.

    3. Roscoe*

      Its true, it doesn’t say that. However, I’d assume he was pretty old. Assuming the CEOs wife is middle aged, her father would probably be getting up there in years as well. Now its true, it may have been rude, but its still a social construct. If a guy rudely asked me to give up my seat for his pregnant wife, I’d still do it, even if I gave him an earful for being rude.

      1. Spreadsheets and Books*

        This is what I came here to say. Most execs at prestigious firms are 40s or 50s. Sure, the wife could be younger, but if we’re going by the law of averages here, I think it’s pretty easy to assume the father would easily qualify as elderly.

        1. my two cents*

          The OP mentioned that this is the first full-time gig after the senior year internship. Given that, OP is about 22-24, CEO and wife are mid-40’s to mid-50’s, and the CEO’s FIL would be at least 70’s. And even so, if the Wife was trying to steady the FIL (visibly holding an arm or otherwise assisting the FIL) then it’s pretty darned rude for the OP to take notice and then also ignore them.

          You never know who you’ll run into. Borderline behavior (“she asked rather rudely” lol) in public places should default to letting it go – and let the ‘rather rude’ person go on their way. But instead, OP decided that they were going to hold their seat on a Sunday night to read-up for an interview the Next Day (not important enough to NOT move, by the way, and the materials may have referenced the company) and completely ignore this person and their elderly companion.

          FWIW, 32 yr old female engineer who’s often had to mince words, over-apologize, etc…and I think OP sounds like an entitled jerk. I wouldn’t want to work with someone I witnessed cold-shouldering another person on the bus/train/plane.

          1. Brandy*

            Also, you never know what someones been thru. There could be a lot going on in her life, not an excuse, but she may have been brash, not rude. And she could have been ticked looking at everyone sitting and no one offering her father (older) a seat.

            1. CM*

              Yes. I have definitely been asked rudely for various things in public, including a seat on a train. But you know what, it’s not on me to punish somebody else for rudeness. If they say they need a seat, and I can spare it, I give them the seat. It’s different than, say, being asked for money — a seat is a public resource. But whether somebody is asking me for a seat or for money, they are probably having a harder time than I am, and it doesn’t hurt me to be polite to them.

          2. Doe-Eyed*

            Also “rather rudely” may also be “asked in a frazzled fashion because she’s towing around her dad”. My dad was generally able to get around but had fairly severe dementia post-stroke and getting him to go anywhere with realiablity was an exercise in cat herding. About an hour in pretty much all my requests were “HE NEEDS A SEAT THANKS D:”

          3. Anon today...and tomorrow*

            As someone who has been accused of yelling when I’ve spoken in a firm, even tone I took the “she asked rather rudely” very lightly. My neutral resting face often looks like I’m scowling and as I am a pretty direct, no-nonsense person when it comes to asking for something I’d like I can imagine that someone would describe our interaction that way despite my never having said a rude or unkind word.

            OP, I agree with Allison on every point here. You lost this job because of your character. Work on that!

          4. JoyOfMotion*

            I don’t think the OP sounds like an entitled jerk. In her position I’d have given up the seat as the request was for somebody else, but I think it’s a fair response to somebody approaching you and asking something of you rudely to ignore them. If the CEO’s wife couldn’t be at least polite about it, I fully understand the OP bristling a little and deciding to deal with the situation by ignoring it. You do not absolutely owe anybody, who approaches you in a way you find rude or concerning, your engagement in a public space. Just no.

            Adding in the bike track marks on the jacket, well again, I’d have stopped and offered my details for dry cleaning and apologised profusely. But I can see why the OP might not have been feeling so charitable towards her due to her prior rudeness, and shrugged it off as one of the risks of public transport.

            I am sorry the OP didnt get the job and agree that there’s nothing they can do now about it. But people are bending over backward to try and find ways to portray it as ‘maybe wife wasn’t actually being rude after all’ to make the OP seen even worse, when I think we should take a letter writer at their word and deal with the situation as it is presented by them.

            TLDR: OP’s actions weren’t ones I’d choose, probably. But I definitely don’t think she’s a jerk for them. I’m surprised at the extent to which everyone is jumping over her in these comments to be honest.

          5. Elizabeth H.*

            My dad is in his 70s and is more active than I am (he plays tennis and/or swims every day in the summer and ellipticals for like an hour per day the rest of the year, and is obsessed with his fitbit. Just bc someone is in 70’s doesn’t mean he or she needs a subway seat

      2. Myrin*

        Yes to all of your points! As a regular user of all kinds of public transit, I’m certainly annoyed when people basically plop down in my lap and yell at me that they need my seat when I haven’t even had time to take in my surroundings (yes, this has happened several times), but I still get up and let them have the seat – I’ve just gotten used to coldly saying “That could have been said less rudely” and then walking away.

        1. Temperance*

          If you sit on me, or shove me, you aren’t getting my seat. I have some minor health issues (that used to be major health issues) and I’m not about to wear myself out by standing for 45 minutes on the way home.

          1. Myrin*

            That’s a reason for you not to give up your seat all by itself and independent of whether someone asked rudely or not, though. I’m thankfully perfectly capable of standing even long train rides so I choose to give my seat even to the lap-ploppers because, pardon the pun, that’s not a train I’m willing to die on.

      3. Brandy*

        Thank you Roscoe. No matter what, if someone said “excuse me, could my father have your seat” Id assume there was a reason why, not that he wasn’t just wanting to sit for no reason. I err on the side of “I do the right thing and if you exploit that, that is on you”.

    4. Dee-Nice*

      I’m a youngish woman in good physical health, so if someone asks me for my seat I’ll give it to them and assume they need it more than I do, whether their need is apparent to me or not. In my experience of living in a large city and taking public transit for many years, I think it’s really hard to get over the social barrier of asking for a seat, even if you need it badly.

      I agree that one should be polite when asking for a seat, and it’s a shame if the woman was rude, but I also can’t tell from the LW’s language whether LW considers the mere act of asking for a seat to be rude. And it seems hard to make the father stand when he may have needed the seat, even if his daughter was rude.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Also: the OP had a bicycle. . .that seemed like a signal that they may not mind standing IMO and would be a good person to approach to ask. If the OP had at least responded, they could have said apologetically, “Oh, I’m sorry, I really need to wrap up this reading, and I can’t read standing up.” Then the woman could have expanded with the reason for her request, but by ignoring her, the OP never knew the need.

        1. Dee-Nice*

          And: needing to read something doesn’t really trump most other reasons I can think of for not giving up a seat.

        2. CityMouse*

          I am actually confused about the bicycle bit – in my city bikes are supposed to be kept in the side areas – someone sitting with a bike would be blocking multiple seats.

          1. Blue*

            Yeah, I had this thought, too. I’ve lived in two cities where I was reliant on public transportation, and in both of them, sitting *anywhere* on a train with a bike meant that you’re probably blocking at least one seat and/or the walk way. I wonder if we’re missing some context here.

            1. What time is it? Showtime*

              There are ways to have a bike on the train that aren’t obnoxious. I’ve seen it done masterfully and I’ve seen it done terribly.

              1. Observer*

                Well, the OP wasn’t being “masterful” – they managed to mess up someone’s coat….

                1. What time is it? Showtime*

                  That’s getting the bike OFF the train. You could mess up someone’s coat if you had a pen in your hand. Generally if it’s crowded, someone is gonna get bumped when people are getting off the train, bike or no.

              2. CityMouse*

                And the key point here is sitting. The announcements in my city actually tell people with bikes to stand near the doors at the sides if the cars. Seats are in aisles or side areas so you would be blocking them if you sat with it.

                1. Chocolate Teapot*

                  I was wondering if it was a carriage where there is a section of tip-up seats (like you get in the cinema) and then you can either take a bike with you or a pushchair/wheelchair.

                  If there is space, then you can sit, but as soon as the carriage fills, you should stand up. My local city buses are similar, but the pushchair/wheelchair space is smaller.

              3. Recovering Adjunct*

                Considering the LW got the CEO’s wife’s coat dirty moving the bike, it sounds like a packed train.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It’s also possible that OP was sitting near, but not in, the seats reserved for the disabled/elderly. Most of the transit systems that require placing your bike to the side also have seats nearby for populations that particularly need seat access. So the woman may have approached OP not because of their bike, but simply because they were seated near the priority seats.

            If OP was indeed blocking multiple seats, then I would be rude about asking if my father could sit, also. Ignoring someone on a train is rude, but in some circumstances excusable. Using your bike to block seats and ignoring requests is next-level social-contract-breaking.

    5. Mike C.*

      Who cares? If it’s someone who’s elderly, you give up the seat! Not all medical issues are visible.

      What the heck?!

      1. Katie the Fed*

        yes, this. I’m picturing someone doing this to my dad who has very low stamina after a brain aneurysm and getting REALLY REALLY ANGRY.

        1. Mike C.*

          Common sense given the average gestation and maturity times for human beings in OECD nations?

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            C’mon, no need to call assumptions common sense. There are enough assumptions already flying around in this thread. There’s no need for moe.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              How old do you think this guy was?? And what’s your cut-off for “elderly”?

              It seems reasonable to assume that he was, at a minimum, in his 60s based on usual gestational periods in advanced countries and on data related to the average age of CEOs of companies of all sizes. There’s a less than 10% chance he was in his 50s, and he almost certainly was not younger than that. Mike C.’s not being unreasonable or overly speculative by drawing that conclusion.

              1. Optimistic Prime*

                I mean, if we’re going to get pedantic about it, we actually don’t know anything about the CEO’s wife’s age. We may reasonably assume that the CEO is middle-aged (although maybe not) but his wife could be literally any age.

                It’s better, instead, not to assume anything and certainly not to yell at the letter writer because of some assumption we’ve dreamed up.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I find the pushback on making “assumptions” about the wife’s age or her father’s age to be a real red herring (and also reliant on some very sandwiches logic). Even if the wife were 20, her father is, at a minimum, likely to be 45-50.

                  Regardless of his age, OP should not have ignored the wife when she asked if her father could sit. I’m not sure what policing how people imagine the father’s age to be makes a difference with respect to what went wrong.

        2. JustaCPA*

          I think the assumption is that someone old enough to be married to the CEO of a company is MOST LIKELY going to have an elderly parent.

          1. OxfordComma*

            This. Generally to be a CEO, unless it’s some kind of a startup, you’re looking at someone in his or her 40s-50s. And then add 20-30 years and you have someone in their 60s-70s, if not older.

        1. kristinyc*

          Yo yo, yo yo, what time is it? SHOWTIME! Showtime, Showtime..

          (If we’re merging Hamilton / Subway references…)

    6. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I would counter that getting such a request is pretty rare and most people don’t ask unless they really need the seat. I spent a lot of time in walking casts and I never, ever asked for a seat on the train because I was a) shy and b) afraid to get rejected. My grandfather would sooner chew off his own arm than ask for a seat on public transportation, so I would do the asking (I wouldn’t be rude about it).

      I would also counter that even if one needs to keep the seat, even if it’s just because they think the request was rudely made, there are ways to say so. As in, “I’m sorry, I need the seat.” Ignoring someone who requests a seat? Nope, rude. I won’t play a game of “Who Was More Rude”– they both were, but OP’s ignoring was pretty darn rude.

      1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

        Also, having lived in many places where trains and subways were the primary means of getting around, there’s often an ettiquette around yielding seats, and ignoring an elderly person could well be perceived as rude just on the face of it.

        1. Blurgle*

          I have seen young, healthy people thrown off the bus for refusing to give up their seat even just to move further back. The lady with the walker has to sit at the front.

      2. Cb*

        I had to ask for a seat quite early on in my pregnancy and it was really scary and difficult (I’m young, I don’t look like I “need” the seat) and I had to rationalise it in my head by saying ‘it’s better to ask one person for a seat than inconvenience the whole bus by passing out’. The person who got up for me was really lovely, hopped up straight away, and the person in the next seat made sure I was okay throughout the journey.

        People don’t typically ask unless they really need it.

          1. AnonyMouse*

            Fascinating, EmilyG.

            I agree it’s so hard to ask. I’m young, healthy looking, but have some low blood pressure issues that can make me dizzy. I once thought I was going to pass out on the train and tried to catch someone’s eye, but everyone had headphones in and was staring at their phones, and I felt awkward that I’d have to ask pretty loudly to be heard. I ended up just clinging to a pole for dear life and stepping off at the next station, because I was too nervous to ask!

            So yeah, if anyone asks me for a seat, I’m giving it up without prejudice. (or, if I need it, I’ll say so.)

          2. Bibliovore*

            I was coming here to cite that same study. I use a cuff crutch. One of the decision points to leaving NYC for a job in the midwest was the subway commute. It is almost impossible for me to ask for a seat on the subway.
            I would love to hear the “rude” language. Could you get up so my father can have your seat? Would you mind getting up so that my father could have your seat? Hey you, get up, my father needs that seat!

            1. Temperance*

              I imagine that CEO’s wife did the thing where you “ask” but it’s phrased as more of a demand, like “could you move so my father can sit down” or “my father needs that seat”.

            2. EmilyG*

              I have had several friends in NYC with mobility issues (one short-term and one long-term) and it seemed like their subway commutes were *exponentially* more stressful than mine was. One friend said that a guy once saw her cane and stood right up for her, then another person darted in front of her, sat in the seat, put his headphones in with his head down, and ignored her, the original guy, and everyone else yelling at him. Ugh! Just more opportunities to have weird interactions with strangers.

              I don’t know how the study would account for this, but I found it surprisingly easy to ask on their behalf when we were riding together. No sweaty palms at all, I could just stride up to the three seats marked priority and say in commanding voice “Could we have one of these priority seats for my friend? Thank yooouu!” Alas, I couldn’t commute with my friends.

              1. Bagpuss*

                I think it’s almost always easier to ask for other people – maybe because it doesn’t feel ‘selfish’ in the way that advocating for yourself can.

        1. Elizabeth*

          I have a dress that makes people think I’m pregnant ( I never am!), and every time someone offers me their seat I always politely decline but never correct them because I don’t want them to get into the habit of thinking they *shouldn’t* offer their seats to actual pregnant people!

      3. WPH*

        I’ve been riding the subway in various cities most of my 30+ years of life and I can’t on one hand the number of times I’ve been asked for a seat. I have offered seats way more times (and been turned down occassionally) and been offered seats way more times. Most people on public transit aren’t looking to talk to fellow commuters so if one is there is usually a reason, sure it’s often that they are nuts/a jerk but it can also be for genuine need. If someone asked me for a seat, even rudely, I would give it. I might give it with some Ms. Manners-style exquisite politeness but I would still give it.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I also commute in NYC, and if the person asking for my seat is just crazy or entitled, I still would give them my seat, because then there’s just less drama all around. Which is what everyone wants in a commute.

          1. Bibliovore*

            The only time that I wouldn’t give up my seat was when a man asked me to give him my seat by the door because it was against his religion to sit elsewhere. There were plenty of other seats open on the train.

            1. Zombeyonce*

              I’m going to start using that. It’s against my religion to not get the window seat on an airplane, to wait in line at Starbucks, and to get parking tickets when I block a fire hydrant.

    7. HisGirlFriday*

      Love the username!

      Just to play Devil’s Advocate….the OP’s memory of how she was asked may be colored by the consequences of ignoring the asker.

      1. Mananana*

        That was my thought, HGF: she may be “remembering” the request as rude as a justification for her behavior.

    8. Purplesaurus*

      Yeah, I’m not sure I would ignore her, but I’d be way less willing to do anything for someone who started out rude. The coat stain, however, I would have apologized for.

    9. ack ack*

      Professionalism kind of requires that you be the bigger person, though. Companies want their employees to be polite, and “She was rude first!” is not an excuse that will get you very far in most workplaces.

    10. Amy Cakes*

      I noticed this, too. Obviously the account is an interpretation seen through LW’s eyes, but it’s still odd to me that everyone is jumping on the LW when the wife comes across as a demanding snot. Assumptions go both ways.

        1. JamieS*

          Given the letter directly says the wife was being rude while demanding a seat, how is saying she came across as a demanding snot reading into something that isn’t there? It’s literally in the letter.

          1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

            Because there’s a wide gulf of possibility between “demanding snot” and a brusque tone that strikes an entitled 22-year-old as “rude.” Particularly when it seems like said 22 year old was already blocking the aisle with a bike.

            1. JamieS*

              No there’s not. Being rude while demanding something is being a demanding snot. Maybe the wife wasn’t actually rude (I wasn’t there to know one way or another) but taking the OP at their word isn’t reading into something that isn’t there when it is there. You can say you don’t buy what the OP said but you can’t say another poster is reading into something that isn’t in the letter when it is in the letter.

              Where is it say OP is 22?

              1. Jesmlet*

                Rude or not, the request she made is reasonable so I think calling her a demanding snot is a leap. A young person who is healthy enough to ride a bike should get up so an elderly person can sit. In fact, they really shouldn’t even have to be asked. And how rude could it have been? Unless she called you a name, I wouldn’t fault her for a rude tone of voice.

                It doesn’t say their age but it’s their first post-college job so 22 is an understandable assumption.

                1. JamieS*

                  You don’t know of it was reasonable or not taking into consideration her perceived tone and nowhere does it say the father was elderly. That’s an assumption nearly everyone is taking as the gospel truth.

                  Expecting a seat for an 80 year old while being rude is reasonable, doing the same when the person is 50 and not disabled isn’t reasonable.

                  In the age of 20 year college attendance I think no assumption is reasonable.

                2. Observer*

                  JamieS, we don’t know how old the father was, but it’s almost impossible for the father to be much less than 60 or so.

                3. Jesmlet*

                  I should be able to ask an able-bodied person (clearly able-bodied since they can ride a bike) to give their seat to my father without having to produce his medical records. The vast majority of people getting their “first proper job after finishing university” are going to be in their 20s. Let’s not use the exception to debate every situation.

              2. Snark (formerly Liet)*

                You’re really riding this bomb into the ground, eh, Major Kong? As noted by our gracious host, taking OP at their word doesn’t mean one is obligated to ignore context. I think you’re off base and contrarian.

                And the OP just graduated from university, which generally occurs around age 21-23 in both the US and Britain.

                1. JamieS*

                  Not ignoring context means not reprimanding people who are making reasonable assumptions that aren’t in the letter. It doesn’t mean someone who’s taking the letter purely at face value should be reprimanded.

                  I’m sure your first sentence was clever to someone else but it’s just nonsensical to me.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  nonegiven, it’s true that there are reentry students, but statistically, the overwhelming majority of undergraduate students in OECD countries are going to fall within the band Snark has provided.

            2. Kate 2*

              How do we know the aisle was being blocked with a bike? Many areas have special bike racks on buses and trains/subway cars for bikes.

            3. Optimistic Prime*

              While I agree that the OP didn’t behave her best, now some people are being unnecessarily rude to the OP. They never said their age; there’s not really enough concrete evidence to assume that they are entitled, and there’s also not enough evidence to conclude that they were blocking the aisle with their bike.

              Can we be nice to the people who come here and ask for advice?

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It doesn’t say she was being a demanding snot. It says she asked “rudely” for his seat, which I would bet money is “she was annoyed that I was taking up the aisle with my bike while not paying attention to people around because I was reading” … which to me seems like the most likely scenario because sitting and reading while your bike takes up the aisle is indeed rude and would warrant someone sounding brusque.

            But even if that wasn’t the case, what exactly would “rude” be here? Her tone? Her wording? What exactly would that sound like? Unless she said something like “hey you prick, get on your feet,” it’s pretty reasonable to assume she just sounded annoyed … which is not a reason to ignore someone in need.

            So “demanding snot” seems a far cry from what was actually described by the OP.

            1. Jesca*

              “Rude” could also imply, and as I had read it, that she *had the nerve* to ask in the first place.
              As I said above though, the point isn’t about who was rude first. It is about learning and understanding that life doesn’t always seem fair and black and white. What wo now may impact us later on no matter the circumstances surrounding the whys.

              Just like it may seem black and white to some (offer a seat to an older person), doesn’t mean it is to others (bad mouth a candidate you were rude to first). Its just life. Life isn’t always fair. Just gotta move on from it and take it as a lesson that you never know who is watching or how you can be perceived.

            2. sam*

              yeah – I ride my bike in the city – and sometimes end up having to take it on the subway, and there are basic…etiquette guidelines when you have to do this. This biggest being…

              …recognize that you are taking up more space than a normal person on the train, and do everything you can to minimize it.

              I will let several trains go by if I see that they’re too crowded. I know which parts of the subway car are the least obstructive to keep my bike (the ends), because you’re not blocking peoples’ access to the doors). And I will apologize profusely to any and all people (and probably overexplain as to why I’m not RIDING the bike – for me it’s usually unexpected sudden bad weather, a flat tire/broken spoke, or I’ve just finished a massive ride and can’t feel my legs anymore – I use a bike share for commuting now!) And while sometimes sitting in the corner with your bike is technically the least obtrusive you can be, by all means, if someone needs a seat, give up the damn seat.

              1. WPH*

                This. As someone who can be annoyed by bikes on public transit I have to say I have almost never seen a biker take up a seat unless the train was virtually empty. OP violated/was oblivous to many parts of the social contract/etiquette/common decency.

              2. PizzaDog*

                Where I’m from, you’re only allowed to be in the end cars and never during peak hours.

            3. JamieS*

              The letter said she was being rude while requesting a seat. Assuming that’s true, many people would call that behavior being a demanding snot. Your interpretation into the reason behind the rudeness (which I think is likely correct but that’s neither here nor there) is what’s reading more into the letter than what’s there.

              I’m not saying the OP gave an accurate assessment. I’m saying taking a letter at face value and not second guessing the OP isn’t reading more into the letter than what’s there.

              1. fposte*

                But this is yet another “It doesn’t actually matter” thing. You don’t deny the request for a seat for somebody who needs it because they asked the wrong way.

            4. KR*

              Agreed and I find with some people if you’re not really nice or smiling (particularly when you’re a woman) people will find you rude even when you’re not being rude, so when OP said she asked “rudely” I kind of rolled my eyes.
              Also, navigating the public transit system makes me tense without even trying so I can understand if she wasn’t super obviously not rude, especially trying to navigate with her dad who may or may not be elderly/disabled.

              1. WPH*

                This! Maybe she was frazzled, maybe she was tired, maybe she was frustrated, maybe she just wasn’t smiling. And heck, maybe she was rude. But to complete ignore her request and the NEED of an elderly human being is just wrong… We do not use other people’s bad behavior to justify our own.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  My father started having serious heart issues before age 60. If he whispered to me that he needed to sit, you’d hear the panic in my voice. I can see someone interpreting my panic as rudeness/brusqueness. Her father may have been having a bad morning or may have just indicated he was having difficulty or she might have decided on her own she was worried for him.

                  When people ask on behalf of others, I always figure there is an immediate reason that they feel they need to ask.

            5. MCL*

              100% yes. If I had to ask someone for a seat who is taking up lots of room with their stuff and not paying attention to their surroundings, I would be pretty pretty brusque as well. I have a hard time not sounding irritated in situations like this. Asking in a short tone whether someone could offer a seat to (probably) an elderly person is a far cry from being a demanding snot. The bigger crime is to ignore the request to accommodate a person who might need a seat.

            6. kj*

              In my city, bikes are hung in a side area, fully out of the way. So the bike might not have been in the aisle at all. Not to say the OP wasn’t rude to not give up the seat, but trains differ and many have ways for bikes to be out of the way and not blocking the aisle.

            7. Kate 2*

              How do we know the bike was taking up the aisle? A lot of public transit vehicles have special bike racks.

              1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

                Because when OP got off the train, they got chain grease or something on the wife’s coat.

              2. Oryx*

                “Unfortunately, when I was getting off the train, I accidentally moved my bike in a way that it caught and left dirty stains on her coat.”

                That makes it sound like the bike was on the train versus “When I was removing the bike from the rack”

                1. kj*

                  I don’t know. I’d say “when I was removing my bike from the train” if it had been on the rack. In fact, I’m almost certain I’ve said that about taking my bike down from the rack and out the train door. I don’t think this is knowable and I think the assumption that the OP was taking up the aisle with their bike is a little uncharitable. It would be very hard to sit and have your bike not fall over, so something was done to stabilize the bike on the. train so the OP could read. The OP could have used a kickstand I suppose, but that would be unusual- most commuting bikes don’t have them and I’d assume the OP has a commuting bike. Again, we are all making some assumptions, but I don’t think assuming the bike was in the aisle is a better assumption than assuming the bike was on a rack. And the assumption the bike was on a rack is more charitable.

            8. Recovering Adjunct*

              I wonder if the OP could also be from a firm “guess” culture where a direct request is rude no matter how it is stated. This would be in fitting with the LW reading/blocking with the bike. To the LW, their physical presence was a firm nonverbal “no” and anyone approaching the LW would be rude, no matter what.

              Here’s more info about ask versus guess culture: This really helped me because I came from an almost abusive “guess” culture and this reframed a lot of behavior I saw as rude or pushy.

            9. Jess*

              The OP was rude and your advice above was right but please don’t pick on the bike; there are a lot of well-designed public transport systems that accommodate them without them taking up much aisle space.

      1. Mike C.*

        The “demand” is for common consideration of the needs folks who may not be in the best of health.

        1. Amy Cakes*

          From the literal words of the letter writer. Site rules expect us to take the LW at their word.

      2. Nea*

        This isn’t just about the seat, though, it’s about the coat. We know that OP felt that wife’s approach was rude and that the ruining of the coat was accidental, but from wife’s point of view, she requested a seat for her father, and not only didn’t get the seat, but lost a coat too.

        So OP is claiming “she started it” on the rude, but the actual destruction of property only went one way. And from the careful phrasing from OP, I wonder if wife was left thinking that she was jostled and stained deliberately.

        1. Jesmlet*

          The letter also doesn’t mention an apology of any sort about the coat when it happened. For someone who is defending themselves to not include this information leads me to believe the apology just didn’t happen. If OP is only offering to pay for dry cleaning now that they know it’s the CEO’s wife, that’s not really a good look.

          1. TMac*

            Yeah, I’m picturing wife coming home and CEO asking “Hey Honey, how’s your dad? And what happened to your coat?” Just doesn’t look good. I get it, you’re getting off the train and you only have seconds before the doors close so no real time swap numbers and get her cleaner’s information, but this looks really bad in addition to ignoring her.

    11. Amtelope*

      It’s polite to assume that people who ask for seats on public transportation need them.

      1. hayling*

        As a young person with an invisible disability, I wish more people thought like you! I’ve had people argue with me or express disbelief when I ask for a seat—in the disabled priority section!

    12. Another person*

      I don’t know of many young CEO’s, so the CEO’s father in law was likely elderly. If not elderly, he’d certainly be much older than the OP who is barely out of university.

      Ignoring the request seems to be the issue here. If someone believes they need the seat more than an older person for whatever reason, there’s nothing wrong with saying “I’m sorry I can’t help, but I do need this seat.”

      1. K.*

        Right. Giving up the seat is the OP’s prerogative (I’d give it up – I tend to offer) but ignoring someone who asks you a direct question is rude.

      2. Jamey*

        I also don’t necessarily think you have to think you need the seat MORE than the older person. I’m young but I have back problems when I’m standing for too long. I don’t doubt that an elderly person may have more problems than I do but I still think it would be reasonable to say something like, “I’m sorry, I need to sit because of my back, but can you ask someone else?”

        Presumably in a full train, there should be someone else who could more easily give up a seat. That way, the older person and I can both sit.

        1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

          And I think it would have been totally reasonable to go, “I’m trying to prepare for an important interview and I can’t read standing up. Could you ask someone else? I’ll be happy to if you can’t find someone else to move.” With an apologetic smile, that would have been fine.

      3. Jesmlet*

        Also, OP rides a bicycle which does seem to indicate they are healthy enough to stand. I’m sorry but your desire to read should not trump an elderly person’s desire to not be in pain while standing. Ignoring the request just adds to the rudeness and I’m assuming there was no profuse apology for you accidentally ruining her coat.

        OP, even if she just presented the facts to her husband without coloring it with her opinion, you come off really badly here. Apologize, offer to pay for dry cleaning, expect nothing, and move on.

      4. Jessica*

        I wonder if the OP had earphones in (like 90% of subway riders) and “ignored” the woman by simply pretending not to hear her. That’s pretty common.

    13. Snark (formerly Liet)*

      Given how self-absorbed OP sounds, it’s entirely possible they mistook brusqueness for rudeness. If my elderly father were in pain and a young, fit person were obliviously sitting in a seat, I might be a little brisk in asking them to give up their seat.

        1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

          Yeah, good point. Bike in the aisle, determinedly ignoring everything around them, Dad’s hip or whatever is acting up..yeah, I might be a brisk Admittedly, I’m reading a ton into the situation, but it’s entirely possible that there was a tension in the air even before Mrs. CEO said something.

        2. blackcat*

          Or you would have to maneuver past their bike to be able to get at any subsequent seat (or, indeed, some of the “disabled” seating).

        3. CityMouse*

          Sitting with bike on the DC metro would be a faux pad. You are supposed to keep your bike in the standing area.

          1. kj*

            In my city, there are places to hang bikes to keep them out of the aisles. I’d assumed the OP had their bike hung up and out of the way. I hope so at least. I’m a biker and get annoyed when bikers do rude things, as it reflects poorly on all cyclists. Most of us are nice and don’t want to be jerks, I promise! I hang my bike on the train or stand with it and move out of the way if I can’t hang it.

        4. Not So NewReader*

          This just really was a bad situation all the way around. And I think OP failed to accurately estimate the “badness” here. If it had just been one thing, probably nothing would have been said, but this was several things.

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        I’ve been that person. My mom has asthma. There’s been a couple times she’s huffing and puffing pretty badly (usually due to our own fault on cutting it too close). When I’m worried, I don’t always have the most cordial tone. I always say “excuse me” “please”, and “thank you” so it’s not like I’m behaving like a monster.

        1. a Gen X manager*

          Agree, Wannabe!
          This situation makes me cringe because my mother has a rare terminal illness that affects her nervous system and she can only stand for up to 5 minutes at a time, but looking at her you’d never know that she has an affliction of any kind and she looks young (for her age) and healthy. When we travel we often advocate for her (and as an extreme introvert this is really, really difficult for me to do, but she literally cannot stand for very long and she will literally drop onto the floor if she isn’t able to sit!) I make myself do it on her behalf.

          OP – This is an opportunity to step back and really consider your place in the world and in society. Your behavior (as you describe it) is my worst nightmare when I am in a situation where I need to advocate for my mother in crowded situations. In the best case scenario, you’d take this life lesson and have it serve as a springboard to move from the entitled, selfish teenage immaturity to true adulthood and eventually emotional maturity. I sincerely wish you luck on this journey toward maturity.

      2. Jadelyn*

        I don’t disagree with the first sentence, but perhaps don’t assume that just because you see someone who’s young and doesn’t visibly “look” unfit, that they can be described as “young and fit” and that they can obviously give up their seat and stand. I’m 31, and would look “fit” to people who don’t know me. However, I have scoliosis and chronic pain issues that mean that standing up for the length of a train ride any longer than about 5 minutes could be very painful for me and cause issues that last the rest of the day. Young people can be disabled, too, even if you don’t always see it on first glance – and because of attitudes like this, I’d feel obligated to give up my seat regardless of the pain I would experience as a result, because I would worry that there would be people making that exact same judgment of me that you’re making about a hypothetical “young, fit person obliviously sitting in a seat” right now.

        1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

          I think it’s basically reasonable to assume that someone with a bike is physically fit enough to ride that bike. I don’t mean to contribute to disability erasure, but in context I think the assumption is at least defensible.

          That said, if OP were disinclined to give up their seat for the reasons you would be, even if Mrs. CEO were a little brisk, it’d be entirely reasonable and polite to say, “I’m sorry, my back is killing me right now and I can’t stand,” or “I’m sorry, but I have chronic pain and can’t stand right now.” Which would be reasonable for you, too.

        2. a Gen X manager*

          I agree, Jadelyn. I am truly surprised at the number of Comments here that outright say that you “can tell” that someone does / doesn’t need the seat and/or that they would evaluate the person asking to determine the need for themselves. This is particularly surprising to me because this group of Commenters is tend to be very open-minded and understanding (as compared to the every day population in my experience).

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              Any thoughts on limiting the number of comments from a single poster on a thread? Some recent threads have been overtaken by a single individual posting the same thing over and over again.

                1. Trout 'Waver*

                  Well, this isn’t the first time someone has mistaken a few very active posters for a consensus.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I think Alison often does this with folks who are a little OOC on a particular thread. She warns them, and if they fail to abide by her warning, then she puts their comments on moderation for the rest of the thread. But unfortunately, that probably requires more of Alison’s attention than is fair/reasonable.

            2. a Gen X manager*

              WOW, I totally didn’t realize that. I try to keep track – my mistake. This actually makes me feel better because I LOVE this AAM community and how safe it is. I was probably blinded by my fury about the assumption(s) being made! Thanks for the correction, Alison.

            3. Blurgle*

              Unfortunately many more people than that are convinced that all disabilities are fake unless they can see it. They’re so worried that one “scrounger” will cheat them out of a nebulous something that they’ll gleefully let a hundred people suffer.

              1. Jadelyn*

                See also: the number of hoops one has to jump through in order to get access to disability benefits from the government, lest one unscrupulous freeloader manage to benefit where they aren’t entitled to.

            4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Yes, this! I had the same impression and then realized it was repeat comments. I think the comments about being able to tell if someone has a disability have now been outnumbered by very thoughtful and thorough responses about “invisible disabilities,” early stages of pregnancy, motion sickness, complications related to standing, etc.

              At bottom, I think a fair number (the majority?) of commenters are saying that the primary “rude” act was ignoring the request entirely. There is also a large group saying that, if you are able-bodied, you should give up your seat. And then the third rude act is griming up the lady’s coat and failing to apologize or otherwise try to make amends.

              But based on the 1000+ comments, I suspect that most folks also believe that, while responding to someone’s request, it’s absolutely ok to reject the request for a legitimate reason (e.g., disability, medical/health issue, etc… but probably not “I’m reading”).

        3. hayling*

          You deserve that seat too! I have a similar problem and I’ve learned to advocate for myself. It’s hard, but I need to protect my body.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Thank you! For me, my social anxiety means that I am so worried about what people might theoretically think of me and what judgments might be aimed at me, that I will generally let my needs go by the wayside to avoid that – which is why I got annoyed at the “young, fit person obliviously sitting” thing, because that’s EXACTLY what I’m always afraid people are thinking of me.

        4. CM*

          Jadelyn, don’t give up your seat! You can say, “I’m sorry, I need to sit,” or “I need to sit because of a health issue,” and then if you want to be really nice to the person who asked, you can say to the people around you, “Could someone else please give their seat to this gentleman?”

      3. Kate 2*

        To be fair, I don’t look up at every single stop on the bus or the train and watch who gets on and whether or not they have gotten a seat and what their relative age is. So I could be “a young, fit person obliviously sitting in a seat”. I don’t think it is reasonable to expect people to do so. Just ask, and I will happily give up my seat.

        1. Yomi*

          Same here. I’m on my train for an hour and because of my illness I’m not altogether “there” in the morning. So it is incredibly easy for me to zone out with a book or podcast. I miss my stop once every few months and have to backtrack. I would never be upset if someone asked for my seat, but I know there’s no way to signal that too other riders.

          1. Mookie*

            An 11 year-old from Melbourne created a campaign for people using public transportation to wear, as appropriate, a “Need a Seat? Ask Me” badge. Sometimes the solution is just too simple and obvious. I love this idea because I’m a nervous wreck when seated on trains and buses, scanning each and every face, at every stop, for signs someone would like my seat. It’s exhausting and I’d much rather be reading or cat-napping than intently scrutinizing everyone for passive signs of seat-needing.

        2. michelenyc*

          I don’t either. I know there are times I have been so engrossed in what I was reading I don’t even realize how many people have gotten on the train or if someone might need my seat. I generally don’t ignore people when they speak to me on the train unless they are on a tirade or if it’s Showtime.

      4. Optimistic Prime*

        I agree that the OP might have (and probably did) mistook brusqueness for rudeness.

        However, as for your last part…sounds like the OP was reading. There have been many times I have been reading a book on the subway and gotten so absorbed that I’ve forgotten the world around me (occasionally missing my stop). I would however be happy to give up my seat to someone else who requested it, should they ask. I usually try to look up at every stop to see if someone might need my seat, but people can also be proactive and ask politely if they need to sit down.

        Also, it’s not great to assume that people who look young and fit actually are and be “brisk” before even asking them.

    14. Age is not an excuse*

      Yes, and sometimes the elderly use their age as an excuse to do things they know are wrong. One time I was standing in a very long line at the pharmacy which was moving at a glacial pace. This elderly woman walks up to the cashier, cutting in front of dozens of people. When I pointed out that there was a line, she said, “But I just have this one thing.” I was like, “We all just have one thing.” She was counting on the fact that no one would call out her bad behavior simply because she was elderly. Wrong.

        1. Age is not an excuse*

          It is…we don’t know that the father needed the seat. The CEOs wife was behaving badly, using the father as an excuse for her rude behavior. Next–>

          1. EleonoraUK*

            It doesn’t matter, though.

            If someone asks for a seat for an elderly person on public transport, you give it to them. End of. Regardless of whether, in your opinion, the old person ‘only’ suffers from being old – you don’t judge whether their request worthy, or require a doctor’s note, you give up your seat.

            The situation you describe isn’t quite comparable. If the person in your scenario had asked to cut the line because she was old, surely you’d let her? I don’t need that person to explain their varicose veins and shaky legs to me for me to do the right thing – if someone’s asking, that usually means they really need it, as it’s an awkward thing to do most people would rather avoid.

          2. fposte*

            We don’t have to know if the father needed the seat. The obligation to respond and to treat the request as sincere exists independent of visible need. If it turns out she regularly gets a seat for her dad for a half an hour despite his robust good health, so what?

            Look, I get that you can have a different response, but the fact is that the precept Alison, the CEO, and most of us commenting are espousing is a really common one. You don’t have to agree with it for it to affect your life, so I think you have to accept the consequences if you want to adhere to it.

          3. Jesmlet*

            It’s not the same situation. OP rides a bike and has not mentioned any ailments that would make standing a huge burden. OP is healthy enough to give up the seat. There may be a chance the father is as well but just be a decent human being and give up the seat. It’s not an elderly person conning someone else, it’s a person doing this for their elderly father.

            1. kj*

              Yeah, agreed. It isn’t a big struggle to give up a seat for 90% of the population. If it is hard for you for some reason, say that. Don’t ignore the request.

          4. Mike C.*

            It’s not your place to question this, either as a poster or as someone being asked to give up the seat.

          5. Blurgle*

            Why are you so afraid that someone will con you that you’re willing to let a hundred people suffer? Why are you so eager to prove other people’s infirmities fake?

          6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            This is a bit circular. You’re saying the woman was rude for asking because she was trying to con OP because the woman is rude. That’s just not supported by the information we have.

            But even if she were a fantastic seat-stealing con artist, it would not absolve OP of their bad behavior (and the subsequent consequences).

        1. Age is not an excuse*

          Thank you for illustrating what being unnecessarily rude looks like…perhaps you know the OP or the CEOs wife?

          1. EleonoraUK*

            Oh come on, it’s a quote, used to illustrate that it’s easy to underestimate how rough getting proper old is, and how easy it is to underestimate that when you’re in a younger body, like you seemed to do. Take it in the spirit it was intended.

            1. Kate 2*

              People might be trying to use it that way, but that isn’t the way it comes off. It sounds really nasty, like phil is telling the other commenter he hopes they die young.

              1. Kms1025*

                Sorry…it really doesn’t come off that way…anymore than saying “live hard and fast and leave a beautiful corpse” is espousing suicide…just a saying

              2. Mookie*

                It’s more of a warning to ageists that behaving like this creates a future that will not accommodate their older selves.

      1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

        What was the elderly person doing wrong in this situation? On a rocking, clattering train, an older person might have trouble standing, and could potentially be in pain or discomfort. Asking a 22 year old to get up seems totally reasonable. I mean, my 67 year old dad is strong as an ox, but if he’s been on his feet all day, an old Vietnam wound flares up and he needs to sit down.

      2. fposte*

        Or she’s always been like this and it has nothing to do with age.

        There are situations where you can say no to a request, as in your case, and in the OP’s case you can say “I’m sorry, but I actually have back problems myself and usually take a disabled seat” if that’s true. But it goes against most civilized code to just ignore a request for an older person to sit down.

        1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

          As repeatedly noted by Alison and others, that doesn’t mean we can’t pay attention to context.

          1. Yorick*

            IMO, people are making assumptions that are not supported by the details in the letter when they say she was not being rude. I agree it doesn’t matter whether she was rude. But I don’t think it’s fair to say “we have to take LWs at their word and not pile on, oh except when the LW is unpopular.”

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s a fair point. I think in this case it’s striking me differently because taken in its entirety, the OP’s letter is painting a picture of someone who I don’t find entirely credible on the subject of rudeness (certainly not in assessing his own, and thus perhaps not in assessing others’), combined with the way this kind of situation would most logically play out (if your bike is already blocking people and you’re reading instead of paying attention to how you might be impacting others, of course they might sound annoyed when asking if you can move).

              But I do realize that essentially comes down to me saying “this one is different because I think it’s different,” and that’s not ideal. I still stand by my take on it, but it’s exposing a weakness of the site rule on this.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Not a city person. But it’s pretty much a standard everywhere that when one is out in public one must show basic consideration for others. In my rural town the other day, I stepped off the sidewalk so an older person could pass me and still remain on the sidewalk. I think this is just normal stuff. We have to share the space no matter where we are or what we are doing.

                IRL, I have used the technique Alison is talking about here. I watch the way people tell their story and look for the overall attitude/demeanor. I get it. You feel a huge let down and you don’t think the reason was that big.
                I think anyone would be shocked/upset. But a key point is that the boss needs to hire people who are constantly aware of how they are coming across. The boss has to know that if he turns his back you are still a high quality employee. Most of us would probably feel like we were having a bad morning if these things happened to any one of us. But the wife caught you twice with in a short time having a low awareness of others. The higher up you go in business the more important it is to quickly read a room or quickly and accurately assess the needs of other people around you. His wife caught you not doing very well with that. The boss does not expect people to come with off/on switches. He expects them to be ON all the time.

              2. Optimistic Prime*

                I think people can engage in basic kindness when making assumptions here, particularly ones that come out against the OP’s favor. Assuming that the OP may have been incorrect when assessing the woman’s level of rudeness makes total sense given the circumstances, and responding to that also makes sense. Assuming that the OP is entitled or was blocking the aisle or other details don’t really make as much sense (and quite frankly don’t help us help them, either.)

                At least in my opinion, I think your assumption helped provide you with some context in a way that allowed you to help the OP potentially see the other side of the equation, whereas some of the other assumptions people are making – or the ways in which they’re using them – feel…not as constructive. Like, it really does not matter whether or not the father was or appeared to be elderly; that’s immaterial to the conversation.

            2. Mike C.*

              People are making that assumption more for the fact that it’s irrelevant than anything else. It’s a low risk stand to take – rude or not, you give up the seat.

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              You’re right. I think the trouble, here, is that based on the letter as a whole, I don’t believe OP is a reliable narrator. But even if OP were, and even if this woman had been rude in asking for a seat, I’m not sure it changes the outcome for me.

              Even rude/brusque people, when making otherwise normal/reasonable requests (and I think it’s normal/reasonable to ask someone if they can move so your older father can sit), should be treated with a baseline level of respect. And you can decide not to do so, but if it later bites you in the butt, it’s not a wholly unjust or unreasonable outcome.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                I love the expression, “good message, bad delivery”. It helps me to separate out what is actually being said from the WAY that it was said. It’s been to my advantage too many times to be able to overlook the delivery method and listen to what is needed or what is going on. We don’t get to pick how other people deliver their words.

              2. Trout 'Waver*

                The OP isn’t any more or less reliable than the average writer, imho. Everyone on the internet comes with their own set of experiences and everyone is the hero of their own story. Those two things combine to make people relate their story in as positive a light as they can.

    15. AnotherAlison*

      Not sure I agree with you here.

      First, not giving someone something they need because they asked rudely seems childish to me. A woman is escorting her older father on a crowded train. I would probably come off as rude, too, even if I was asking nicely because I would have to yell to be heard.

      Second, I think you should always assume if someone asks, they have a good reason. Based on the details, I’m betting that the CEO’s wife’s father is elderly and probably looks it. Heck, my mother is recovering from a broken pelvis, and while she’s “only” 64, for some reason now that she’s back on her feet, her feet are going numb when she stands in one place for more than a minute or two. She probably wouldn’t look disabled enough for you, but I feel like that’s a minute-long explanation that I probably don’t want to shout out to you on a crowded train, particularly when you’re ignoring me.

      1. blackcat*

        Yeah, my mom is 64 (I am 30) with bad joints and osteoporosis. When she visits me (Boston area), I have totally asked random abled-body looking folks to give my mom a seat on the bus. My mom doesn’t get transit etiquette, and she really needs the seat. So I ask for her. And you know what? The three times it’s happened, someone (not always the person I am asking) has jumped up before I even finished the request.

    16. Beth*

      This crossed my mind.. but I’m wondering more about the context of the request. LW mentions he/she was traveling with a bike. I rarely see people on my local train system sitting when they travel with a bike because there is almost no way to sit and hold a bike without blocking another seat or taking up a great deal of space. Not only that, but if you are sitting and the bike needs to be moved, it’s much harder to do that than if you were standing. And chances are, if you are traveling with a bike, you are physically able to stand up. On a daily basis, I see people just riding the train in an inconsiderate manner (putting feet up on the seat next to them, blocking doorways, putting your bag on the seat next to you during rush hour, etc.) so it’s possible that she was already annoyed with LW for potentially being inconsiderate and this reflected in her voice.

      1. ToodieCat*

        And if you’re sitting and holding your bike, how much reading are you really doing?? Yeesh.

      2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        This really depends on the train design. My metro’s trains have these alcoves where you hook the front of the bike on top and don’t need to hang onto them at all.

        1. kj*

          Yeah, we have the same thing in my city. It is perfectly possible to have one’s bike hung and out of the way so you can sit down without your bike being in the way. I usually prefer to stand next to my bike, but I have sat when I was tired or feeling ill (I commuted by bike when I was sick many times- yeah internship/grad school exhaustion-induced sickness).

      3. Anne*

        You aren’t allowed to bring a bike inside a Toronto TTC vehicle (bus, streetcar or train) during morning and evening rush hours. It’s fine outside of those hours, but you still need to be careful and courteous, especially if the vehicle fills up after you’ve boarded. My bike once slipped from my grasp on a train one weekend and banged into a woman. She was rightfully annoyed with me even though I apologized profusely.

    17. JamieS*

      I think almost everyone is assuming the father was elderly because he’s the father in law to the CEO who’s likely at least middle aged. I’m not sure why though. For all I know the wife is a 20 year old trophy wife and her father is a strong strapping 38 year old.

      1. fposte*

        Because it’s likelier that he’s not, and because it doesn’t really change the fact that the OP was in the wrong for ignoring a request to cede his seat.

        1. JamieS*

          I think it’s incredibly a CEO has a young wife with a relatively young father. No if the wife or father aren’t infirm and the wife was rude (both of which may or may not actually be true) then OP wasn’t morally in the wrong.

          1. fposte*

            I think the OP still would have been morally in the wrong, because you respond to people who ask for your seat and you give it up unless you have a reason not to. It doesn’t matter if they’re asking about somebody with snowy hair or not.

            I get that you don’t see that as an axiom; the fact is that enough people take the same view that it’s not hugely surprising that the CEO’s wife and the CEO do, and you get to hire according to rules you consider important to civilization.

            1. Naruto*

              Regardless of how the question of giving up the seat plays out, flatly ignoring a person who directly addresses you like that is morally in the wrong.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            You have no way of knowing if someone asking for your seat truly needs it; plenty of young people have invisible disabilities. It’s rude to ignore any request from someone who indicates they’re in need of help. You can certainly explain that you need the seat after all (because perhaps you have your own disability), but simply ignoring it violates the social contract and is callous.

            1. Jamie*

              Yeah, the optics here are terrible regardless of whether the OP was justified in keeping the seat. It doesn’t matter how rude the woman allegedly was, ignoring the request makes the OP look just as bad if not worse, period.

            2. JamieS*

              There’s no social contract requiring someone to engage a rude person. If you have a disability that’s not visible it’s your responsibility to say that. It’s not my responsibility to assume you’re disabled.

              Also there are ways to be able to pretty accurately tell if someone is disabled. If I see you sprinting full speed and then hopping onto the train with ease you aren’t getting my seat due to disability.

              1. Observer*

                The OP made it clear that it would not have made a difference, because they were not sitting in a seat reserved for disabled people.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                JamieS, I have asked you repeatedly to stop repeating this idea that you can tell if someone is disabled. I’m now temporarily placing you on moderation until you stop ignoring that.

              3. Ladyoh*

                No, you can’t. My sister looks very able and fit. She is not, at all. She could possibly ‘sprint’ to catch a bus (or such), but she absolutely would need that seat after. And she would need that seat regardless of that sprint. Unless she is having an episode you.can.not.tell. that she is disabled. And if she is having an episode she doesn’t get out of bed.
                You can NOT always tell, and you insisting that you can reflects badly on you.

              4. Jadelyn*

                JamieS, are you familiar with Spoon Theory? It’s a term coined to explain the way that disabled people have to “ration” energy and effort. Say you start the day with a bundle of 10 spoons in your hand. Taking a shower and getting dressed costs 2 spoons. Making dinner costs 3. The workday costs 5. You’ve only got 2 spoons left; better ration them wisely!

                And if you commute via train, consider: perhaps sprinting for a train before it leaves costs 1 spoon, but standing or sitting on an awful concrete bench for 20 minutes waiting for the next train will cost 2 or 3 spoons in terms of the pain it causes you. In that case, it makes perfect sense that a disabled person could decide it’s worth expending the effort in that moment, in order to avoid the greater pain cost that would result if they did *not* make that effort.

                This doesn’t make them any less disabled, and they absolutely could still need a seat once they’re on the train, even if they decided it was worth the cost to make a single, brief, heroic effort to sprint to catch the train before it left.

              5. Yomi*

                I have asthma, so if I had to rush to catch the train because in our system there frequently are 20-30 minutes between trains and missing it could make me a half hour late for work, it could easily trigger an asthma attack which I would need to sit down to stay recovering from. And I’m not making up this situation, this exact thing has happened to me. Someone offered me a seat before I even started to pull out my inhaler because they were just being nice.

                For most examples you can think of there are exceptions, and you can never know if the person you are refusing is the exception or not.

                And yes, I know that I shouldn’t run for the train like that. If our transit were more reliable I wouldn’t feel a need to. Like I said, exceptions. Life has too many variables to know what the person next to you is facing.

              6. Bagpuss*

                JamieS – that’s not how a lot of physical issues / disabilities work.

                I can walk or even run short distances without much problem but I cannot stand on a moving train for any length of time without being in significant pain, and because I have problems with my neck and shoulders holding on to pole or strap-haging is acutely painful

              7. AK*

                As far as I can tell,
                A) the age of the father in question,
                B) the (unlikely) possibility that he did not have a legitimate need for the seat,
                C) how rude the CEO’s wife was
                D) OP’s age and
                C) Who ‘started it’
                are in no way relevant, unless the OP somehow didn’t bother to mention that the father was doing cartwheels and acrobatics down the aisle while holding a completed certificate of good health done that very day, all while the CEO’s wife yelled ‘GET OUT OF YOUR SEAT YOU $#&#@(%&#@%!!!!’. I mean, if that did happen, OP should have mentioned. Otherwise there’s no reason to treat the request as being made in bad faith.

              8. Mookie*

                It’s not my responsibility to assume you’re disabled.

                No assumptions required when somebody explicitly asks for what they want rather than rely on you to assume something. You are not entitled to hear private details about someone’s health so that you can judge whether someone is disabled enough for your liking. And it’s not ‘your’ seat; most transportation authorities have made that clear by enforcing rules about manspreading and taking up additional seats for no good physical reason.

            3. hayling*

              Thank you! Having an invisible disability is the worst. Sometimes people argue with me when I ask for a seat, or they glare when I’m in the disabled section of the train and don’t offer my seat. If it wouldn’t actually be *more* uncomfortable, I’ve considered wearing a brace to make my disability more visible!

              1. a Gen X manager*

                I feel for you, hayling! When we know conditions are going to be challenging / crowded, my mother brings her cane because it helps to keep her stable on her feet, but even more so because it is a powerful visual cue to strangers to give her a bit of space and/or that she has mobility issues that you can’t see. The difference in response from strangers between bringing her cane and not bringing it is astounding.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  My mom keeps her cane in her car, and sometimes if I’m having a bad pain day I borrow her car (with its disabled parking placard) to do errands with so I don’t have to walk as much, especially for something like grocery shopping where I’ll have to be able to carry a bunch of stuff to the car when I’m done, and the combination of walking around the store, carrying stuff to the car, and carrying stuff upstairs to my apartment (plus putting everything away, which takes a lot of bending and stretching and stuff) would leave me totally wiped. On those days, I often do grab her cane from the backseat and take it with me purely as a visual marker, because as I’ve mentioned upthread I’m young and look “fit” to someone who doesn’t know me, and having a cane in hand even if I don’t really need it can “convince” strangers to leave me the hell alone about using a disabled parking placard. Otherwise…people can get really nasty about it.

                2. fposte*

                  @Jadelyn–In the states I’ve lived that would be a hella illegal use of the placard, though. It goes with the person, not the car.

                3. Jadelyn*

                  @fposte – I’m aware of that, but it’s also not the job of random strangers to enforce that rule, so I’m not sure why that’s relevant to a discussion of how differently strangers treat you when you have a visible mobility aid versus not having one.

                4. TootsNYC*

                  In my state as well.

                  Have you talked to your doctor about getting your own placard?

                5. fposte*

                  @Jadelyn–because they’re not wrong in their suspicion that you’re misusing the placard. I get it feels right to you, but that in combination with you using somebody else’s cane to look disabled is really troubling to me.

                6. Jadelyn*

                  @fposte – My point remains that IT IS NOT ANY OF THEIR DAMN BUSINESS – or yours, for that matter – whether anyone is “misusing” a disabled placard, or sitting in a disabled seat, or otherwise using disability accommodations of some sort, which is the topic of this discussion in the sense that there’s been some back-and-forth about assumptions of disability and how people treat the invisibly disabled, versus the visibly disabled. Nobody made Random Stranger #7,884 the Official Gatekeeper of Who’s Disabled Enough to Deserve Accommodations, which is a thing that happens, a thing that I am addressing. I’m not using the placard for funsies, or because I’m feeling lazy. I’m doing it because my doctor is being a jerk about my getting my own placard, and I can’t switch doctors right now so for the moment I’m SOL and doing the best I can with the options I’ve got. I’m sorry you find that “troubling”, but that’s not my problem, and is in fact the *exact reason* I sometimes take the extra step of borrowing the cane, because it works as a visual signifier of “I am Not Well”, without which people are often jerks about the whole thing as a result of that sense of misplaced entitlement to audit other people’s level of physical ability which is at the heart of the current discussion.

                  And frankly, when my options are “be in nauseating pain the rest of the night and struggle with simple tasks because I Followed The Rules”, or “bend the rules with full permission of the person who’s helping me to do so, so that I can be a functional human being”, I’m going to go with the latter every time and not feel a single smidgen of guilt over it.

                  @TootsNYC – I’ve tried. It has not gone well thus far. My doctor seems to be of the opinion that unless you’re in a wheelchair full-time, you don’t deserve accommodations. And switching doctors isn’t really an option for me right now, unfortunately.

                7. fposte*

                  @Jadelyn–I don’t agree, but I think it’s clear we’re not going to see this one the same way.

                8. Zombii*

                  @Jadelyn | The reason you’re getting an unpopular reaction to this is because most people who advocate for random strangers to stop policing the disabled spots do it out of the belief that invisible disabilities are legitimate and the people who have those tags actually need them, regardless of how obvious that need may be.

                  When someone is abusing the system by borrowing a tag (even if they do legitimately need it, like you, but are running into problems with their doc), that undercuts the whole argument, because if there’s supposed proof some people are abusing the system, then it’s not completely out of line for random strangers to police that system (even though it really still is), you know?

                  I’m sorry about your doctor. S/he sounds like judgmental, uninformed an asshole. Good luck in finding a doc who will follow their commitment to do no harm. :)

                9. Mookie*

                  No one is sullying the good name of placards because a small minority are misusing them, any more than a handful of frauds have ruined social services and welfare programs such that they are now useless and tainted. Oversight is provided by the government, not self-appointed vigilantes. If someone’s commitment to ensuring the well-being of disabled people can be so easily shaken, that commitment wasn’t worth much, anyway.

          3. Snark (formerly Liet)*

            The fact that you’re reaching this far to defend OP should be a clue that it’s not a terribly defensible point.

            1. JamieS*

              It’s not a reach to say the father may not be infirm and I’m not defending the OP. I’m disagreeing that assumptions should be taken as absolute fact.

              1. Observer*

                It’s a reach to claim that it’s at all likely that the father was a young and healthy person. It’s just so unlikely that insisting that people treat it as a real issue to contend with is reaching “bending into a pretzel” territory.

          4. CityMouse*

            FWIW my dad had his first knee surgery had 35, which was when I was a toddler. This is such a stretch it is exposing the silliness of your assumptions. You’reading trophy wife AND a young dad and then no other conditions.

            1. JamieS*

              Assuming a 35 year old had knee surgery is silly. It’s possible but it’s not extremely likely. I also never said the father didn’t need the seat. I disagreed that we should all make that assumption and take it as the truth with no consideration for other explanations.

              1. Parting Shot*

                Your comment only makes sense if someone tells you that the sight of a 35 year old getting onto the bus should be enough to make you offer your seat. That isn’t relevant here. In this scenario you were specifically asked for the seat, so nobody is asking you to make assumptions. The decent thing to do is to not immediately interrogate their medical history there on the bus, or presume that the person asking you is a statistical outlier so therefore doesn’t matter.

              2. CityMouse*

                Assuming a 30 year old had knee surgery is far less silly than assuming the CEO’s father in law was 38.

              3. JSM*

                I’m a 35 year old that has had 22 major surgeries, with another one soon. No one would look at me and see a disabled person. I don’t carry a cane or use a brace to walk but it costs me.
                I find it ridiculous that I feel the need to write to you on this matter just because you claim that a 35 year old needing a knee replacement is silly.

          5. Mazzy*

            Most CEOs are around 40. A “younger” wife would still be around 40, which means dad would be around 70. You’d be surprised how many 70yos are in bad shape despite the media acting as if everyone is living in perfect health until 80+

      2. Spreadsheets and Books*

        I’m 27 (and the oldest… my sibling is 24) and my dad is 63. Even a young trophy wife could have an aging parent.

          1. JamieS*

            Huh? How does the number wife she is impact the likelihood her parent is older? I’d say the chance someone in her 20s has an aging parent is the same whether the 20 year old is someone’s third or sixth wife.

            1. fposte*

              “From” is generative, not sequential.

              If her mom was a trophy wife, that means her dad is likely to be much older than her mother. If her grandma was a trophy wave, that means her grandfather is likely to be much older than her grandmother.

            2. blackcat*

              One of my friends (who is 29) has an 85 year old dad. He was already elderly and not super mobile when my friend was 18.

              1. Sandra-Dee*

                This. I, from all outward appearances am in excellent health with no physical problems. However, I sustained a pretty serious and permanent back injury in a car accident a couple of years ago, and while I can walk or stand in a way that could be viewed as “disability-free” for a short amount of time and distance, I certainly am not!! And if I push it and walk or stand for too long, I pay dearly for it. Nothing makes me more frustrated than the notion that because someone “looks” ok, they must be! It’s so completely inaccurate. You can’t possible ascertain someone’s situation by simply looking at outward appearances. So many times I am in terrible pain, but I force myself to walk in a way that defies that because I don’t want anyone to know!

            1. Kate 2*

              Yes, thank you so much for this Allison! I am only in my late twenties, and I look much younger, but I have a few different conditions that could make it difficult for me to stand on any given day, such as hypoglycemia, inner ear issues, and migraines. It means a lot to me that people are reminding others that hidden disabilities exist.

            2. WPH*

              Thank you for repeating this. I was fortunate enough to work at a non-profit for an invisible disability very early in my career so I have realized for a very long time that “sick people don’t always look sick.” So I am admittedly surprised that some people are so adamant that all disabilities are visible. This has been a good reminder for me.

          1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

            Because of course they’ll have “I have neuralgia” or “Sciatica Sufferer” tattooed on their forehead to meet your evidentiary requirements.

            1. SarahKay*

              This! I had my first sciatica attack when I was 35. I looked fine, as long as I didn’t have to stand up at which point I most definitely did not look fine. Oddly enough I could (and usually can, when it flares up, as it does from time to time) walk in reasonable comfort, but standing…not so much. After about five minutes I’m starting to be in serious pain, and a packed train doesn’t give me enough room to move around to ease the pain.

              1. Jadelyn*

                I’m the same way – I can manage walking around for much longer than if I’m required to stay standing in one place. Even on bad pain days I can walk around for probably 30 minutes before I start hurting too badly, but I can only do about 10 minutes of standing before the pain gets intense enough that I have to sit down.

      3. Katie the Fed*

        OK, despite the incredible stretch here, usually if someone asks you for your seat, they’re not doing it to just deny you a seat. They NEED it.

        1. Myrin*

          Seriously. I don’t see why someone would just randomly ask another person on public transport to give up their seat for their strapping 38 year old father. Sure, people do all kinds of dumb stuff to annoy and aggravate others but that would certainly be a new one.

          1. EleonoraUK*

            Completely agree. Even if there are perfectly healthy, lazy people abusing this convention for their own gain, you give up your seat, because 99.99% of people asking for a seat need one, regardless of whether you can see why with your own two eyes.

      4. Courtney W*

        I don’t think his age is particularly relevant either way – many disabilities are invisible, and ignoring someone who needs a seat is rude.

        1. Moose and Squirrel*

          Exactly. There are dozens of reasons that someone could need a seat that aren’t visible. Several commenters have mentioned various reasons already. The “you don’t look sick” thing gets old fast for those who are sick or in pain.

      5. KR*

        Okay I’m just going to say it, trophy wife isn’t a very nice way to refer to someone. You don’t have to agree with me and I’m not interested in a discussion but that’s my opinion.

      6. Observer*

        Because that’s a ridiculously unlikely scenario. Even if she’s a “trophy wife” ( a term I despise) I doubt that she’s 19 with a father who was 19 when he had her, AND she’s taking care of him.

      1. Recruit-o-Rama*

        This is to no one in particular, just a comment on this thread in general, but can we stop with the “trophy wife” thing. Women are not property to be “won” as a trophy is, even if a particular woman happens to be younger than her husband.

        1. Juli G.*

          We did stop with Trophy Wife. It’s why there’s no more Bradley Whitford on my TV. :(

          (Sorry, a little levity! But co-sign your point).

    18. ReallyNeedToGetBackToWork*

      So, I thought this, too, initially. But there’s something off about the letter as a whole; this isn’t about a sequence of tiny incidents so much as it’s about blame. The writer sounds like someone without an ounce of self-awareness, and more than a little tendency to blame others. S/he was virtually promised the job — really? The other lady “rudely” asked — really? And surely the other lady “badmouthed” the writer — really?

      The overwhelming thought I had is that this is a person who cannot conceive of not getting or deserving what they want, and if that happens it MUST be someone’s fault, not their own. There is not the slightest idea in this person’s head that they read too much into the encouraging words of the HR person, or that an interview with the CEO is more than a formality, or that possibly s/he isn’t as slick as they suppose. And when the slightest glimmer of self-doubt does appear (as in, “gee, it seems I was rude to the CEO’s wife and father in law, maybe that was part of it”) rather than feel chagrined, the writer reacts with “but she was rude first.”

      Kindness matters. Self-reflection matters. Taking ownership of our failings matters. Personal responsibility matters. Humility matters.

      Original poster: it almost never reflects well on you to deflect responsibility for your actions. Whether someone was rude or not, you had an opportunity for kindness, and you missed it. Whether someone considered you a shoe-in for the job or not, the decision maker disagreed. Rather than squealing “unfair” or cynically offering to do the right thing only after having been “caught,” you’d be far better served to humble yourself, tell a mentor that you’re not sure why you failed, but you would be really grateful to hear what you could work on in the future.

      1. paul*

        Yep. I’m not getting into the dos and don’ts of mass transit; I’ve never lived in an area where it was really a thing (we kind of sort of have a bus service here but its schedule and routes are awful) so I’m not familiar with it myself. But the letter seemed to assume everyone else acted horrible and OP was innocent of everything.

        If you run into a jerk, you ran into a jerk. If you run into jerks all day, you should check yourself.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I kind of got that impression too, or that they were miffed about it and looking for someone to blame. I understand their consternation at not getting the job, but the situation seems weighted very much in favor of the OP being at fault here.

      3. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

        Yeah, I actually expected the OP (from the overall tone in the letter and th heading) to end with how he had been told by the recruiter that the wife had lodged a complaint (or at least that they’d gotten a bad reference) or something.
        But this is all the OP’s assumption.

        I mean, I’m pretty sure he’s right and I would’ve said something if I was the CEO’s wife, but he can’t be certain. Seeing the woman in the lobby and guessing that she recognized him and told the CEO which lead to him not being offered the job… I can’t fathom why the OP would frame it as DEAD CERTAIN that is what happened.

        1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

          Or rather, I CAN understand what kind of person would frame their letter like that and that’s why RNTGBTW (hope the abbr is ok?) is so great.

          OP, you are probably right about what happened and why you weren’t offered the job. But read through your letter again and imagine you hadn’t written it. That you read it on AAM just like we did.

          What would you advice the LW?
          What would you have done if you were the woman? Maybe you don’t have an elderly parent but a kid? Or could you imagine yourself having a terrible bout of flu and being in that train and asking someone for a seat?
          It’s hard, but try to look at what happened and not what you feel/felt.

          If a friend had told you the story, what advice would you give them?
          What if you’d been the CEO?

          And maybe reflect more broadly on how we act in public vs how we “are as people”. Some people believe we are just the sum of our actions, others say that intention is what really matters. What do you think? What behavior outside of work would you find unacceptable in a colleague?
          (An extreme example: most people don’t want to work with child molesters, but most jobs involve no contact with children. So why should the person’s behavior outside of work, not remotely related to their work, mean they can’t work there?)

          Everyone is rude at times. Is there a point where one stops being a decent person? Like, how rude can a person be and still claim they’re friendly and nice? What excuses do you think are ok?
          I tend to not care if parents with screaming toddlers are rude to be on the bus because having a screaming toddler is super stressful. But I can get very offended by a young teen pushing past me, even though I have no idea why they were rude.

          You don’t HAVE to do anything but they’re useful things to think about. Even if you hadn’t been in this situation, it never hurts to reflect on oneself and one’s behavior and assumptions one makes.

      4. AthenaC*

        Going along with your comment, and possibly related to this situation –

        I have noticed recently(*) that quite a few people feel entitled to be the karma arm of the universe. If I think someone was rude to me, I will be rude back because they “deserve” it. If someone asks me for something but they aren’t nice enough I will say no because they don’t “deserve” my kindness.

        In addition to being a poor life strategy for the reasons shown by this letter, it’s really corrosive to your character to decide that you’re allowed to be unkind or rude for any reason. It’s better for you and for everyone around you to be as consistently polite and kind as practical.

        (*) To be clear, not intended to be a “kids these days” or an “awful modern times” observation.

    19. Sue Wilson*

      I have to say, unless I saw that the man was elderly, injured or seemed unable to balance well, I probably would have ignored the request too.
      Rudeness is not one of those ways.

      As far as my mother, who is disabled, is concerned (and I agree) if it has to get to the point where someone has to ask for their elderly relative to get a seat, then you’ve already been rude by not offering it. It’s part of the social contract, imo, that we proactively take care of those who need help, and being elderly is in that class. In addition, I believe we should assume that someone asking for help needs it, especially considering that “injured or unable to balance well” are not NEARLY all the reasons someone might be disabled or need a seat, and certainly all those ways aren’t always visible, and we shouldn’t be asking people to disclose. Even when my mother is asking for a seat in the disability section, she always asked for able-bodied people to do so, because she knows age isn’t a sign of health.

      1. Temperance*

        Okay I really disagree with this. You never, ever know why someone is not offering a seat. Does your mother actually announce “I need to sit down so any able-bodied person, please give me a seat”, or does she approach the youngest looking person and assume that they’re healthy?

        1. Sue Wilson*

          She says “I’m disabled, can someone who doesn’t need the disability seating please let me sit?” I’m honestly not sure what you disagree with.

          1. Temperance*

            Sorry, I was assuming it was like all the other commenters here who just assume that anyone who is young-looking and not using a mobility aid must be able-bodied and is therefore a jerk for not immediately moving. Your mother handles it appropriately.

          2. TL -*

            Yup. Best script I’ve heard to to approach someone and say, “do you need that seat?” or something along those lines.
            But honestly, you have a pretty good chance if you approach someone young and healthy looking and usually when you ask, people who feel comfortable standing up will tend to offer even if you were asking someone else.

        2. The Other Katie*

          But in this case, we do know why the OP didn’t offer a seat, because she said so – she wanted to read.

      2. CityMouse*

        I had a knee injury after an accident. It was in the winter so my brace was usually covered by my pants. I get on the train at an outer station so I never had to ask for a seat, but if i had my pain would be invisible. Just ignoring me would have been pretty mean as an experienced rider knows, you use your knees to balance in a sudden stop.

      3. KR*

        Eh, I’ve heard from wheelchair bound and disabled relatives that how everyone jumps to assist them all the time gets a little aggravating and can even get offensive sometimes. I don’t think OP is rude just for not offering as soon as they see an elderly possibly disabled person.

        1. TulipRose*

          I’ve actually been snapped at on more than a few occasions for offering an older person a seat. A woman lectured me for the rest of our ride together that you shouldn’t assume someone’s age or ability to stand.

          As a fat woman who’s been offered a seat more than once under the assumption that I’m pregnant, I also tend not to offer my seat to someone I “suspect” of being pregnant. Only if it looks they’re about to give birth that minute do I offer, because I know how it feels to have people think your fatness must be a pregnancy. Someone actually once said to me, “Do you need a seat or are you just fat?”

          1. Discordia Angel Jones*

            Yeah it’s awkward. I never want to say “dude, I’m just fat” so I tend to say “No, don’t worry, I’ll stand” but a couple of times (usually when it’s a lady offering me a seat funnily enough) they have really gone “Please, please take my seat pregnant lady” and it’s SO mortifying. Particularly since I am shy and insecure anyway!

            Your comment is pretty much why I don’t offer seats unless asked any more (although, I have had much stronger negative reactions than being snapped at, which doesn’t help).

          2. Sue Wilson*

            that you shouldn’t assume someone’s age or ability to stand.
            Did she realize that asking if someone needs a seat is NOT an assumption or? Like I get that people have had bad reactions from people, and fair enough if you don’t want the hassle, but as we see in this situation, you might still get a hassle. Of the two, I think the error is best left to being kind.

        2. Sue Wilson*

          Well, honestly, they’re going to have to explain what’s aggravating or offensive about “do you need this seat?” Like, on the balance between offering to people who don’t need the help and not offering to people who do but can’t ask? I’d rather not do the latter. But I can admit that this was the culture I was brought up in.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I’m with you on this, Sue. I have been lectured for asking someone if they would prefer my seat (because I was raised in a culture where you immediately offer a seat to folks who are at least one generation older than you, pregnant, or visibly mobility-impaired). And I’ve been lectured by folks in wheelchairs about the problematic assumptions of non-wheelchair users.

            I still offer people my seat; I just make sure I ask if they need a seat/assistance, as opposed to standing and immediately assuming they need my seat. Nine times out of 10, the person is grateful that they didn’t have to ask. And if someone made a request like your mother’s request—which sounds perfectly worded—I would offer my seat then, too.

            I think it’s ok for people to wait to be asked, only because there are valid arguments that suggest affirmatively assuming someone may need your seat is infantilizing to that person. But once someone asks, it’s pretty poor form to ignore them, as opposed to giving up your seat or disclosing that you cannot give yours up for [whatever legit (medical) reason].

            1. Optimistic Prime*

              That’s how I usually do it, too. And I typically ask people “Would you like to sit down?”

      4. Kate 2*

        I mentioned this above, but when I am on the bus or train, I don’t look up at every single stop and watch all the people getting on and whether or not they have gotten a seat and guess about their age/possible disabilities.

        If someone needs a seat, just ask. Just because someone hasn’t noticed that an elderly person has boarded, it doesn’t make them a bad person, which is what your post seems to say.

        Also some people wear headphones or earbuds. I have a lot of black hair, and when I wear my black headphones people don’t always notice. So they might not be hearing someone ask.

    20. CEMgr*

      If the man did not appear in need of a seat, I feel it would have been acceptable to politely decline to give up one’s seat. But to completely ignore the request was not good behavior.

      1. Jessica*

        Have you not been reading this thread? I think there have been many examples offered of disabilities and legitimate need that would not immediately be apparent. I think it’s acceptable to decline if you yourself have a (possibly invisible) need, but not because the other person doesn’t “appear” to need it. What do you want, a doctor’s note? The mass-transit social contract is founded on people being honest when they ask for the resources they need. There seems to be a substantial body of evidence that people mostly are honest about this, and if anything, the error is in the other direction (people having legit need and still not wanting to ask for help).

        1. TootsNYC*

          And even if a few people have figured out how to “game the system” by asking for a seat when they don’t need it, our world is still better off if we just let them get a seat.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        How can you determine, though, if someone “appears” to be in need of a seat? 99% of people who ask for a seat do so because they need it. It seems dangerous to make the determination based on one’s (limited) perception of whether someone truly **needs** your seat.

    21. Ann O. Nymous*

      Yeah, as someone who lives in a big city and takes the subway daily, I think what the LW did was rude but not “reflects a serious lack of character” rude. People ignore people on the subway all the time, especially when they’re treated rudely. I think it’s off-base for other commenters to imply that LW is an unmitigated asshole unworthy of this job opportunity because he was a jerk one time on a transit system where people tend to behave jerkier than usual.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        We all have moments where we’re not at our best. But ideally you realize it later and cringe a bit and regret it. In this case, the issue is that there doesn’t seem to be any of that going on.

        1. Ann O. Nymous*

          That’s fair. I don’t think a single incident like this is indicative of someone’s bad character. I will agree that sending this letter to you with this kind of tone & argument that lacks introspection is more evident of a rude/self-centered personality than the single anecdote presented in the letter. So I think it’s fair to call attention to that, but it does seem like some of these comments seem to be way more judgmental about OP’s character than I think is warranted. I feel like this could become a pile-on (if it isn’t already) and I hope that you discourage that.

        2. Zombii*

          I thought the issue was LW seemed to misinterpret a lot of what happened during the interview process and when confronted with failure, went looking for the first possible explanation that wasn’t all their fault— except that by some quirk of personality and circumstance, that explanation was still all their fault.

          LW still needs to reflect, take a lesson, and move forward but the whole mess with the CEO’s wife on the train is a red herring and I think it has a lot less to do with why they didn’t get the job than they’re assuming. Leave that part out and this is every other letter you’ve ever gotten about how everything was going so well with the company, but I still didn’t get the job—what happened?!

      2. Sal*

        I agree with this. I have been less than my best self on the subway, always in response to someone else not being their respective best self (think: other guy says something rude, I say something shirty in response, other guy tells me to do something anatomically improbable, I call him the nastiest word in the general lexicon), and I’m not actually sorry. I’d be exceedingly sorry, however, if that had been my interviewer’s husband. (Or if our exchange had led to physical violence.)

        I think the LW has to let this one go.

        1. D.A.R.N.*

          This is where I fall. It may be unfair, because it was something OP worked hard for and may have been just one instance, but there’s nothing to do about it now except remember it for the future. Sorry, OP.

      3. Optimistic Prime*

        You know, I think this is where my mismatch is coming up. I’ve almost always lived in crowded urban areas and ignoring people who have been rude to you (especially on public transit) is pretty normal – and sometimes, honestly the best response to avoid escalating a situation. Not that I think the OP should’ve ignored someone asking for their seat, but it doesn’t seem like a serious lack of character to me, probably because of that cultural standpoint.

    22. Detective Amy Santiago*

      If his daughter is the wife of a CEO, then he is probably elderly.

      As someone with an invisible disability, I would not have been able to give up my seat, but I would have acknowledged the request and apologized instead of outright ignoring it.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        Yes, this. I have knee problems and vertigo, and I look relatively young, so you cannot tell from looking at me that I need to sit. Nevertheless, I have occasionally had to explain that I cannot relinquish a seat on the train because I need one. “I’m sorry, I have bad knees,” or “I’m sorry, I have a disability and need to sit.”

        It amazes me how many people ignore my requests for a seat. It seems it’s always young women and old men who give up their seats. The young men sitting in their phones with headphones in, studiously ignoring me, might possibly have invisible disabilities, but it seems statistically unlikely that every single one of them does.

    23. Liane*

      1-As any Miss Manner fan–of which I am one–can tell you folks who are so kindly concerned about our OP being wronged by a blatantly disrespectful fellow-rider, the best way to deal with another’s rudeness is to be perfectly polite. Like rising from one’s comfy bus seat while saying in a sympathetic tone, with your sweetest smile, “Oh yes, ma’am, of course, your dad can have my seat. It must be so very frustrating finding someone who will give up their place.”

      2-“But she (substitute favorite pronoun) started it!” is not a statement that should be made by a mature, professional person.

      3-The only thing I don’t understand, is how the OP managed to accidentally bump Mrs. CEO with their bike. The only buses I have seen where you can bring you bike along, have a rack mounted on the *outside* front. Did the OP almost drop the bike removing it from the rack or some similar accident, and Mrs. CEO was right there, because Murphy’s Law?

      1. Kate*

        To answer #3 – the OP said she was on a train, and at least on the DC Metro, there are designated cars where riders bring their bikes on the train with them (you would not put it on the front). In that case, most riders with bikes try to minimize the space they are taking up by standing with their bikes, but I can see how on a crowded train, you might bump someone and get them dirty. The letter doesn’t say how OP reacted in the moment, but I suspect Mrs. CEO was already peeved due to their earlier interaction, so the bike thing was just icing on the cake.

        1. Liane*

          Thanks for explaining how this works. I haven’t lived anywhere with a really good, extensive public transportation system, just basic bus service.

    24. Artemesia*

      On the other hand the OP behaved rudely so it is hard to judge whether she is a good judge of rudeness. The CEO’s wife’s father is likely to be elderly; if the CEO and his wife are say 50s then her father is at least 70 and probably 80 or more. The fact that she asked for her father and not herself is a clue that he NEEDed the seat as opposed to wanted a seat.

    25. Ghostlight*

      I think the overall tone of the letter gives off a sense of entitlement and rudeness, but I think the two actions on the train are at the least understandable depending on the situation.

      So many people on crowded public transit jump to inescapable escalation and threats after trying to start a conversation or ask a question, so I frequently ignore people trying to speak to me on the train, especially if they start the interaction already keyed up or rude at all.

      I also understand not stopping and taking a bunch of time to apologize and try to fix the situation after bumping into someone on the train with a bike – the doors are only open for so long and when the train is busy, especially trying to get through the crowd of people between you and the exit with a large item like a bike or suitcase, stopping to apologize more thoroughly than “oh no I’m sorry about that!” for something frankly very commonplace (being bumped into on the train) and risking not being able to get off the train at my stop on the way to work wouldn’t be something I would be willing to do.

      It sounds like LW did all this with a sense of entitlement and brusqueness from the overall tone of the letter, and likely didn’t apologize to the woman on the train at all, but I think the actions themselves are not as reprehensible as many commenters are suggesting.

      1. Observer*

        Bumping into someone is not the same as bumping into them with your bike – that’s always a big deal, even without getting the coat dirty. What’s more, it’s reasonable to believe that the OP would have mentioned any apology had there been one. So, while I don’t think the OP is a monster, I do think that this is more than just “not so polite”.

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*

        “so I frequently ignore people trying to speak to me on the train”

        A fair number of people agree with you, based on my previous experience with a temporary disability desperately trying to find a way to sit on crowded subways – sometimes, I would ask for a seat and be completely ignored. And yeah, that led to injury because I *needed* the seat, I wasn’t asking just for kicks.

        If someone is asking for a *seat* for pete’s sake, do not ignore. Ignore people randomly trying to small talk with you? Sure. Ignore people who need to sit because of a disability? That’s an awful thing to do, and it reflects poorly on you.

    26. Just Another Techie*

      We can’t know if the father is genuinely disabled with something not immediately visible or if the wife was just entitled. I will say, though, as someone who cares for invisibly disabled family members, the stress and anxiety of caretaking sometimes gets to me to the point where I fail at social niceties. It doesn’t mean my family member’s need is any less, but I am so focused on my worry about what will happen if Dad falls again and it re-opens his stitches and he starts bleeding and I have to get him to a hospital and and and that I forget to say please, and it certainly doesn’t occur to me to take ten minutes to recite my father’s entire medical chart in order to prove he needs a seat. I just want him safely sitting down!

    27. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      Le sigh… I feel like this is going to be a very unpopular opinion, but I do feel for the LW. Public transit systems can be brutal and really seems to to bring out the worst in all

      I get why the LW ingnored the intial request. I am a youngish and very able-bodied *looking* person. What people don’t know is that I have an invisible injury/joint issue that makes it very hard to stabilize myself while standing on the subway and that when I do stand it puts me at serious risk of re-injury. I purposely plan my commute for less crowded times/options. I’ve had people react so rudely (either passive aggressively by mumbling under their breath while staring at me or outright aggressively by yelling or otherwise causing a scene) when I’ve politely explained that I have an injury that requires a seat.

      In my experience… (And my experience only, everyone on here can swear up and down they would not react this way)… Anyone who asks for your seat has already decided that they need the seat more that you do and nothing you say will change their mind about that.

      So yeah, I’ve taken to ignoring requests, in the hope that someone else will hear the request and give up their seat. That usually does work – other person gets a seat and I don’t get accosted. I’m sorry that it is a “rude” approach overall, but the world is not black and white and we’re all doing the best we can.

      As for the LW – this sucks. I get why you acted the way you did. The combination of ignoring + the bike smudge (depending on your reaction to the bike smudge) was probably a bit rude overall – but life happens. Everyone on here who is condemning you has also been rude to someone else within their life (we all make mistakes or have bad days or have things come out wrong). You just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and a moment that would have otherwise been brushed off and never thought of again happened to follow you and most likely caused you to lose this opportunity. It stings, but that is life.

      Take this as a learning experience – no matter how much you plan for and how hard you work, random things can happen. Also – really evaluate how you behaved on train. If you think you can do better going forward, then strive to do that.

      1. Sal*

        I appreciate your explanation of the rationale for ignoring these requests. It’s an under-represented viewpoint today but I think it’s a valid perspective.

      2. What time is it? Showtime*

        This is very well-written.

        I in no way think the OP should be upset about losing out on this job. Just as the CEO’s wife’s rudeness caused her to lose out on a seat for her father from OP, OP’s reaction caused her to lose out on the job. I don’t think OP was horribly wrong for ignoring the woman because she was rude, it’s just unfortunate and unlucky for the OP that she was who she was.

      3. Vanessa*

        Thanks for this perspective, Sunshine on a cloudy day. I, too, have an “invisible” disability — an autoimmune disorder that causes severe neuropathy in my feet and hands. It’s not possible for me to stand for long periods of time on Metro, but as a woman in my late 20s who appears able-bodied, I’m used to getting dirty looks when I don’t hop up when someone who is elderly, pregnant or visibly disabled boards the train.

        Last winter the neuropathy got so bad I needed a cane to get around. One day, I boarded, leaned my cane between the seat and the window and settled in for my 40 minute commute. The car gradually filled, until a pregnant woman boarded with her father. I was engrossed in a book, so I didn’t realize he was talking to me when he announced, “My daughter needs a seat.” When no one moved, he singled me out. “You,” he said, grabbing me by the shoulder, “my daughter needs that seat.” I was so shocked by the fact he’d touched me that I grabbed my cane and let the other woman sit down.

        Thankfully, another commuter hopped up from one of the seats deeper in the car and helped me to it, but it’s so true that once someone has decided their need for a seat is greater than yours, they will not take no for an answer.

        1. fposte*

          That sucks, but it’s not universally true; I’ve had people take no for an answer.

      4. Observer*

        Actually, I’ve seen people be perfectly polite about being refused a seat. But, I do understand your perspective, and I understand why you would be hesitant to risk that. But, the OP doesn’t have that excuse. And, you also have the self-awareness to understand why it looks rude to others. The OP doesn’t have that either – and that’s a big part of the problem here. Had the OP written “I can’t stand and was afraid that the woman would give me a hard time” I bet that Alison’s response would have been “That comes off as rude, even though you had a perfectly valid reason for acting this way.” As opposed to her actual reaction.

        What makes it worse is that the OP then proceeded to bump this woman and stain her coat and doesn’t think that an apology was in order. I think that’s a key piece of this. The first rudeness was one thing. The combination really looks very bad.

        1. Preggo lady*

          +1 and this “Anyone who asks for your seat has already decided that they need the seat more that you do and nothing you say will change their mind about that.” actually made me really sad. I’m currently pregnant and, although I haven’t had to ask for a seat yet, if I do have to, it will be because you’re the person that happens to be nearest to, not because I’ve assumed you’re the person least in need. If you were to say, ‘Sorry, but I’ve actually got a joint problem so would really appreciate sitting down’, I wouldn’t be angry – but perhaps that’s because I used to suffer with joint problems myself so accept that not everybody who looks ‘healthy’ actually is. I can understand how one or two angry answers could put you off answering the question full stop.

      5. Toph*

        I think the social contract goes both ways. One can’t necessarily see the need of the person asking for the seat; we just have to take their word they’re asking because they have a genuine need (which they don’t necessarily need to articulate)). Likewise, if I’m an asker and the sitter declines, I have to take their word that they themselves need the seat, even if they decline to elaborate why. We can simultaneously have invisible reasons for needing to sit, and neither of us is required to go into a detailed medical explanation. I have to trust an asker asked for a reason, and that a sitter elected to continue to sit for a reason. Sure, sometimes there will be people who ask just because they want to sit and figured, why not ask and see if I get a seat out of it? And sure, sometimes there will be people who decline to stand who perhaps plain didn’t want to stand and nothing else. Both of these are possible, but hopefully if we’re starting from a standpoint of assuming most people will mostly be reasonable most of the time, both sides should be taking each other at face value. I completely understand the impulse to not talk to strangers on transit, especially when sometimes engaging may seem dangerous if someone is creepy. But I do think if we’re going to consider the need of the asker as “they wouldn’t ask if they didn’t need to” then we also need to consider that if the request is denied there is need on the other side. The problem with the letter writer is they just ignored it. If the LW had a reason (besides reading), they could’ve (should’ve) said that in the letter. I don’t think they need to even necessarily say it to the CEO’s wife. If they’d just said on the train “I’m sorry I can’t, maybe try someone else?” the wife wouldn’t know, did this person have a torn miniscus? A recent heart transplant? Low blood pressure? Other? Or were they just a person unwilling to budge? It could be any of those things. By not even attempting to respond, the LW makes it sound more likely it’s just the latter. If the letter came in almost as-is, but the LW had indicated “I have xyz invisible reason”, then the advice would be slightly different: politely decline on the train and otherwise let it go. Or if the letter had indicated they’d politely declined, and even given outloud the reason no, that’s different too. But in this case, regardless of what else may be going on with the LW, based on the info they provided, what they did on the train was not cool, and regardless of whether it actually had an impact on the job, it’s good for the LW to learn it wasn’t cool and (hopefully) have that color their actions moving forward. My problem with the LW isn’t that they didn’t give up a seat, it’s the rest of how they acted according to their own description.

      6. D.A.R.N.*

        Agreed. The anxiety over being accosted on a train makes me ignore people 99% of the time I ride one. This isn’t black and white.

        1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

          I think being in public, using a shared resource, means that you need to at least be receptive to the occasional unprompted conversation with a stranger on some topic or another. Whether it’s “can I have your seat” or “what’s the time” or “can you tell me how to get to Teapot St,” I think you need to be prepared for people to say stuff to you, anxiety or not.

      7. JoyOfMotion*

        +1, beautifully put across. I’m taken aback by the number of pitchforks out for this OP. I hope they see your comment amongst the rest.

      8. Mookie*

        I get why the LW ingnored the intial request.

        Well, I get why you would and have in the past as you’ve described, but what is the LW’s excuse? They don’t have a disability. And it’s okay, in a civil society, to make judgment calls and triage people according to their needs. Sometimes somebody needs the seat (the blood transfusion, the hospitable bed, the food allowance, the subsidized housing) more than you and sometimes they only think they do; it’s not a sin to be wrong about such an assumption and why you should object to saying this out loud — that some people should give up their seats when others around them need them — is not clear, but it is reality, nonetheless. We are not so dainty that we can’t acknowledge this.

        You just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and a moment that would have otherwise been brushed off and never thought of again

        Again, that’s the OP’s perspective, not an objective one, ignoring the experiences of the other two people involved (who probably couldn’t quite wipe the memory from their minds as readily as the OP did).

      9. Bob*

        Agreed–people who don’t use mass transit for their commute just don’t get it. It’s tough for everyone and easy to zone out and ignore anyone who seems rude or agitated.

        I find it really strange that people can’t imagine that the lady who wanted the seat was rude. People can be really nasty, which is hard to deal with when you’re in mass transit, so people tend ignore rather than deal with the person. Even if the father should have been given the seat, it’s understandable that the LW tuned her out. That’s what happens when you’re crammed in with a bunch of people.

        1. Observer*

          The thing is that a lot of the people who have responded actually DO use public transit. And, the OP didn’t just “zone out” and not hear. The OP, according to the letter, decided to ignore the asker because she seemed rude to him and because it wasn’t a designated handicapped seat.

          What most people were saying about the rudeness is that 1. It doesn’t really matter unless she was acting crazy rude and 2. It’s fair to question the OP’s evaluation, due to the attitude the OP shows. It turns out that the latter was spot on – the OP posted and admitted that in retrospect, he realizes that it was a pretty reasonable ask.

    28. Decima Dewey*

      If I’m on public transit and I’m asked to move my bag so someone can sit, I move my bag so they can sit. Regardless or their tone of voice or the way they worded it, if they had to ask, my bag was in their way. And my bag takes up less space (and is less likely to stain someone’s clothing) than a bike.

      It doesn’t matter who started it, and OP doesn’t know that’s why he/she didn’t get the job.

    29. Jaguar*

      Yeah, that popped out to me as well. There’s important context that taking public transit often makes people kinda miserable, and that goes up the busier transit gets. OP should have proactively given up the seat to the older gentleman no matter what and especially done so when asked, regardless of how rude, but it’s also incumbent on everyone to not be an ass on public transit, including making reasonable requests on other passengers. It’s the difference between “excuse me” when you’re trying to exit a crowded train and a frustrated “could you move!?” You have every right to have a path to the exit, but be a decent human about it.

      Again, this isn’t to excuse the OP’s behaviour, but to incriminate the wife who, if we’re taking the OP at their word, sounds unpleasant as well.

      1. Jaguar*

        Hopefully this isn’t too off-topic, but there’s a somewhat related story I could add to my point.

        A few years ago, I was accompanying my dad to a doctor’s appointment. He has advanced Parkinson’s disease (the appointment was unrelated to that) and, with medication, his day oscillates between being completely immobile and able to walk and interact but with dramatically impaired balance.

        So, we were taking a bus, and he was mobile at the time but had his wheelchair with him. We took a pair of seats and tried to get the wheelchair out of the way as best possible. The bus became crowded pretty quickly. Eventually, I noticed a pregnant woman standing, so I offered her my seat. She then laid into me, rejecting my offer and taking me to task for not offering my seat to a kid that apparently boarded earlier that I was totally ignorant of. I was totally dumbfounded. Soon after, a woman and child boarded, and as I was preparing get up (and pull my dad with me), she shot me a look of expectation, like, “Are you going to not be an asshole now, The Only Person That Offered the Pregnant Woman a Seat?”

        I’m willing to accept my villainy in the situation, but being rude when someone else fails their moral obligation helps nobody except yourself. It’s just about you spreading your own misery. Do better.

        1. Kate 2*

          Oh man, I would have straight up told that woman, I don’t give my seat to kids. They are younger and have way more energy than I do, they can stand and hold on to the pole or a seat back like everyone else or a parent’s hand. I work, I am on my feet a lot, I am going to sit.

          1. Jaguar*

            Well, I’m strongly in favour of kids getting seats. It gets them out of the way, settles them down, prevents them from banging into things if the bus makes sudden movements, allows the parent to control them easier, etc.

            1. What time is it? Showtime*

              LOL, really? I find that when kids get a seat on the train, their parents STOP paying attention to them and they either stand up in the seats or turn around backwards to look out the windows and then kick their feet everywhere. I feel like standing forces their parents to pay more attention so they don’t let go of the pole and get flung halfway down the car if the train suddenly stops.

              1. Jaguar*

                Well, giving parents the opportunity to be responsible won’t mean that they will be. That’s not an argument against giving them the opportunity. You don’t run through a 4-way stop because some people go out of turn.

          2. Hellanon*

            I never give up my seat for a kids. I don’t even know that’s a thing to do.

            1. Blurgle*

              It sure is. Kids trip up other passengers and are more likely to be flung around if the bus has to stop. You always give up a seat for small kids for that reason.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Really? I don’t do public transit much anymore, but I used to, and this was never a thing that I saw or was made aware of. I don’t think it’s nearly as universal as the idea of giving up seats to someone elderly or pregnant, for example.

                1. fposte*

                  Yeah, that’s a new one on me too. I’ve given up a seat to somebody who was holding a kid who then put the kid in it, but that’s fine; it wouldn’t occur to me to stand up for a kid, and it’s not something that I’ve seen noted in etiquette stuff.

                  I can understand the point being made about kids being vulnerable, so I don’t object to the notion; it’s just not one that I encountered before.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  It’s pretty common when I’ve been on public transit, but it’s usually the child/parent duo that receive a seat (or the parent and multiple children), and often the child(ren) are all under 10. I’ve rarely seen someone offer their seat exclusively to a child without also looping in the parent (sometimes the parent will still stand, but they’re incorporated into the offer).

                3. Cherith Ponsonby*

                  Sometimes it’s even the other way around – on some public transport systems in Australia, schoolkids travelling on a concession ticket are supposed to give up their seats if adults are standing. (Obviously this depends on circumstances.)

            2. Squeeble*

              It’s a nice thing to do if the kid is energetic and would otherwise be trying to run around the train car, grab onto various things/people and probably hurt themselves.

              1. Jaguar*

                For me, the main thing is just let the parent and the kid sit down together on the bus / train / whatever. I’ve seen often where all the two-side-by-side seats are occupied by one person leaving the other seat vacant, parents come in and sit their kid in one seat and go and grab a different one themselves because nobody volunteers the pair they’re occupying one of. Like, you’re a grown-up, aren’t you? Just get up and let the mom and the kid sit together. Honestly, it’s shockingly frequent that the 5-year-old is not the most immature person on the bus.

          3. Thursday Next*

            I think a blanket policy like that is unnecessarily confrontational and closed-minded. I have a disabled 6-year-old. Some kids do need that seat more than you.

          4. Sensual shirtwaist*

            I agree with jaguar – with the proviso that it is strongly age/ mass dependant. Under 4 feet? It’s better for everyone if they’re in a seat. Not only are they at risk of getting squashed or whacked in the head as the bus fills up, but they are unlikely to be willing and able to hold them selves steady as the bus corners or brakes – caroming off other passengers instead. Small kids should sit on a parents lap if it’s crowded – safest for them and the most efficient use of space. Kids that are two big to sit on a lap but not obviously big enough to stand are a grey area and I think the best option is to ask and trust the parents will make the right call for their kid.

          5. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

            Yeah – I’m definitely not giving up my seat for kids (if I even could). From the time that I could stand until the time I moved out of my parents house my mother was adament that if there were ANY adults standing (disable/injured/pregnant/whatever or not) my brother and I were NOT to be sitting.

            Now I don’t expect kids to give their seat up to me or parents to enforce such strict guidelines themselves, but after a childhood of that – I’m sitting guilt free in front of kids.

          6. Artemesia*

            I’m one of those old crones who is quietly outraged when kids are given seats and older adults stand. If it is a toddler, put him on your lap — people with babies and toddlers should be given a seat. But older kids have a lot more energy than most adults and should be learning to let the Olds sit down. No wonder they sit there like sprawled on their phones while 85 year old men stumble in the aisle when they have been trained as kids that they are little princes and princesses who should go first and get the best.

            1. Umvue*

              It’s worth remembering that in some transit systems, the safety handles for standing passengers are above the head…

              I commute regularly with my five year old. She’s just starting to learn to be able to hold her own when the bus is in motion, for brief periods at least — but some drivers in our system have real lead feet. (There was a time last year when she got thrown to the floor twice in one ride because of a careless driver. One of those times involved stairs!) So while I don’t think I’d ask for a seat for her, at this point, and I certainly wouldn’t ask for one for me, I’m always grateful when someone is willing to move so that we can sit together. And generally somebody volunteers as soon as they see us — so I’m not sure that your mores are widely shared. (Honestly, there’s an element of self-defense involved: nobody wants to get drafted into a game of Kindergartener Frisbee.)

    30. Stellaaaaa*

      I rarely advocate lying, but OP could easily have said she was on her feet for 9 hours at a retail job, hurt her back the day before, busted her ankle in a bike fall, felt sick, etc as a way of responding to the request. It’s lousy to not give up the seat on general but I’d posit that it’s also weird to not have a better way of dodging the situation. Not every healthy young person is able to give up their train seat in the exact moment they are asked to do so and most reasonable people will understand that, if that message is communicated in some way.

    31. Observer*

      I haven’t read all of the responses to your comment, but I want to point out a few things.

      1. The OP says that one of their reason’s fore reacting the way they did was that it wasn’t a disabled seat. As others have noted, that’s a very poor reason given the limited number of seats. There is no indication that they thought that the father didn’t need the seat.

      2. The issue is not that the OP refused but that they ignored someone – and did so even though it’s a fair assumption that the father is old enough to need a seat.

      When you add that to apparently not apologizing for for messing up the woman’s coat, that’s a big issue, even if the woman knows that it was an accident rather than the op “getting back at her” for her rudeness.

    32. Yomi*

      We only have the OP’S description of it as rude and since they clearly point out that they weren’t designated disability seating, so they were not obligated to move, I don’t trust their barometer on rudeness.

      Also, invisible illness is a thing. I recently was in the city with my mom, who is not very old but has an invisible disability. As we walked back to the train she was having to stop every few hundred feet to rest. When the mostly full train pulled in, I rushed on ahead of the crowd to grab her a seat, and I would have asked for one if needed. There would have no visible signs of her disability or current pain to people who don’t know her well. If somebody had refused, we wouldn’t have gotten into a speech about what was wrong with her, we would have assumed they were a jerk and moved on. Instead, two people stood up to make room for new passengers so she was fine. Which is also good because we were on the train for over an hour.

      Even with my own illness, I don’t believe I have a “right” to sit that supercedes anybody else’s because I don’t know them, I don’t know their story and I don’t need to know in order to be kind and courteous. I just need to stand up sometimes.

    33. Jess*

      Actually, there is. The OP said that he ignored the request because he wasn’t sitting in a “designated disabled” seat. Pretty clear indication the OP thought that the father looked likely to warrant a “designated disabled” seat on request. Or maybe that was just a crappy excuse. Allison called this right.

      1. Optimistic Prime*

        No, that’s not a pretty clear indication of anything. The father may have “looked” disabled or not; the OP’s decision not to give up their seat may have been independent of that.

        1. Jess*

          Well, he said he decided to ignore the request since he wasn’t sitting in a designated disabled seat, so unless he’s lying, it wasn’t.

    34. Optimistic Prime*

      Yeah, this. I think the OP could’ve reacted more kindly, but there was absolutely nothing in the letter to indicate that the man requesting the seat was elderly or infirm and the OP did already say that the woman asked for the seat rudely.

  7. WellRed*

    I mean, he didn’t just refuse to give up the seat (really dude?) but he ignored the request to boot.

    1. Juli G.*

      Yeah, this is the issue here. Had OP said, “I’m sorry, I can’t”, it wouldn’t have been the kindest thing but okay, fine. Just ignoring her was not the best move.

    2. teclatrans*

      Yes, this. I was prepared to be on the fence about this one (on the one hand, give up your seat to elderly and inform, on the other, juggling bike plus paperwork is challenging, so maybe this is a learning opportunity), but “so I ignored her” was a record-scratch moment. That is downright rude and dismissive. If I were that woman, being ignored and shrugged off would make me baddest of all. (Even over the grease stain, unless OP shrugged that one off too.)

    3. Kathleen Adams*

      Yes, ignoring a request like this is…well, it’s pretty cold. It would have been better (not ideal but better) if the OP had come up with some sort of excuse. Lying and saying “I’m sorry but I’m not feeling well” isn’t ideal, but it’s better than treating someone making this sort of request as though she were something so obnoxious or inconsequential that she deserved to be ignored…oh, my. Bad. Bad bad bad.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Or even, “I’m sorry–I need to do some paperwork. Could someone else stand?”

  8. HisGirlFriday*

    I don’t want to pile on the OP, but Alison is spot-on. Your behavior 100% showed a facet of your character, and one that the CEO probably didn’t like very much. You acted, frankly, rude, entitled, and stuck-up.

    Any further contact you have regarding the job is basically going to read as, ‘I didn’t know I had to be polite to this random person because she could do something for me, so now that I’ve found out she’s important, I’m sorry I was rude.’

    That may not be how you mean for it to come off, but that’s how it’s going to come across.

    Chalk this up as a lesson learned, and maybe do some soul-searching about your own actions.

  9. MegaMoose, Esq.*

    Yeah, I don’t know if the convention is different in different places, but in my area, it doesn’t really matter if you’re sitting in a designated disabled seat or not – it’s just common courtesy to give up your seat to someone older/pregnant/mobility restricted. Ideally before requested, but certainly after. And if it’s a crowded train, it’s possible they just asked for the closest seat. The fact that the request was made rudely really doesn’t change that.

    It really, really stinks to lose a job that you think you have in the bag, but it happens all the time, even when you’ve basically been promised it. You simply have no guarantees until the offer is formally extended (and even there, sh_t happens). Better luck next time.

    1. Alex*

      I’ve ridden public transportation for years and only recently noticed the “priority seating” signs. It never occurred to me that some seats are meant to be given up first.

      I have flat feet and standing on the train is pretty painful after a while but you give up your seat because it’s just what you do. Not that I don’t still shoot dirty looks at all the other folks who pretended not to see the pregnant woman or elderly person right in front of them, of course.

      My advice to OP is to be kind, even if you think it doesn’t matter. Because it actually always does.

    2. paul*

      I don’t do mass transit–not much of an option anywhere I’ve lived–so I’m kind of fascinated. How old is old for purposes of this? Like is grey hair enough? Visible difficulty standing?

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        Honestly, if someone asks, you should assume they need the seat more than you regardless of their appearance. In terms of giving up a seat without being asked, I generally will offer if someone appears to be having a hard time standing (or has a small child with them, or appear to be pregnant, or are carrying something maybe) but I try not to make assumptions based on apparent age.

      2. Artemesia*

        In Paris the magic age for being entitled to a seat is 75. In the US the rule of thumb is more ‘needs the seat’ So someone who is clearly quite elderly should be offered e.g. someone past 75 or so; someone who is clearly mobility challenged, has a cane, uses crutches, etc should be offered regardless of age. In my city which has excellent public transport, people do hop up and fold the seats the moment someone in a wheelchair gets on and for people with large strollers; the bus driver will also announce when someone who clearly needs a seat gets on that ‘I need those seats up front’ and not move until people move and offer the seat.

        1. Jessica*

          It’s been some time since I lived in Paris and I’m unaware of the 75 rule, but I’ve always noticed that people on Paris buses are generally quite proactive (I guess in comparison to my US baseline) about offering seats to others who seem like they might need it.

      3. fposte*

        In my commuting days when I was visibly a young thing, I’d offer to anybody pregnant or with a baby, or anybody I noticed had difficulty mounting the stairs, or anybody who looked like a senior citizen. I would give it up for anybody who asked (absent, like a group of teenagers who seemed to be taking the piss). When in doubt, you get up and say “I’m getting off soon–would you like my seat?”

      4. TootsNYC*

        The threshold for whether you “ought to have” automatically offered your seat without being asked is:
        any visual indicator, such as assistive device (cane, etc.), limp, pregnancy, unsteadiness, extreme shortness (so can’t reach the overhead straps easily; this covers kids as well).

        And then probably age, based on hair color or wrinkles.

        People w/ lots of packages, perhaps.

        Apparent exhaustion ought to trigger a kind person to offer their seat, but I don’t think there’s some external rule like those for people w/ canes.

        1. halfmanhalfshark*

          I agree about apparently exhaustion but that one is tricky because you don’t want to basically imply to a stranger that you think they look tired or old or pregnant (if they are just fat). But also, I mean, I feel like erring on the side of kindness is always better even if the person you offer the seat to gets grouchy about not needing it.

      5. halfmanhalfshark*

        I’ve taken public transit as my primary mode of transportation for almost 15 years and in that time been offered seats because I’m fat in a way that can sometimes be mistaken for pregnant (and I accepted, because if I’m going to feel bad about myself, I’m going to do it comfortably while seated), offered seats because I’ve been carrying lots of stuff, not offered seats when I was actually very visibly pregnant, not offered seats when I was trying to carry an actual baby on a very crowded bus, and not offered seats when I was navigating public transit with a orthopedic surgical boot and crutches.

        My personal rule is that anybody who looks like they could use a seat, due to age or infirmity or pregnancy or trying to carry a window unit AC on the train or because they have a kid(s), I will offer them my seat. And if someone asks? 100% absolutely they can have it because nobody asks unless they really need it. Also I am not shy and my voice carries if I want it to, so I have on a few occasions (with permission from the person who wanted to sit) asked people to move on behalf of strangers. Very little makes me angrier than when people suddenly become extremely engrossed in their book or phone when someone who needs a seat gets on a crowded bus or train.

    3. Jessie the First (or second)*

      I agree – but I am more than a little disheartened by a number of responses in the thread just above defending the LW for ignoring the request. Like, people actually saying it’s totally fine and normal to *not even respond* to a request for a seat, and that somehow this is some kind of gray area. I’m gobsmacked. Ignoring a request for a seat for an elderly or disabled passenger is horribly rude and NOT OKAY.

  10. Antilles*

    This isn’t all that different from losing a job because you were rude to the receptionist.
    My last company always, always asked the receptionist how you were in the 5 minutes or so you were sitting our lobby. Because if you can’t be polite to a lower-level employee for a short period of time when you’re supposed to be on your *best* behavior, you’re probably going to be bad to deal with normally, and absolutely miserable on bad days when there’s an upcoming deadline.

    1. chocolate lover*

      Many years ago when I was still in college, they invited students to be on the search committee for a program adviser. One of the candidates got belligerent with the admin/receptionist because of some parking confusion, and told me about it after. The two of us agreed not to tell anyone else until after the interview, and see what people thought of the candidate. You should have seen the candidate’s face when she realized the admin was also on the panel interviewing her! Turns out we really didn’t need to say anything anyway (though we did when everything was over), because the woman was so generally unpleasant, no one liked her. And the candidate basically admitted in the interview that she had been demoted to a back-end position that didn’t involve working with people, which made us wonder what the original interviewers were smoking when they invited her back to the second interview, given that the job involved working with students all the time.

      1. Lora*

        For me it’s also how well they tip at business lunches/dinners. My worst bosses have invariably been lousy tippers. If you tip badly or fuss about crap the server cannot possibly control (is your food edible? yes? then shush and eat it, don’t whine about how you just remembered you don’t like whatever the menu clearly said the dish contained), I will remember you forever as That A-hole. You will never be invited out to the happy hours and poker games and networking events with the rest of us, because we can’t trust you to be nice to the staff and we want to be welcomed back with open arms at some point in the future. Stingy tippers are embarrassing.

        Whenever anyone is new to the area or asks me for career advice, that is the #1 thing I tell them: it’s a small world, everyone knows everyone else, so be nice to everyone because you likely will have to work with them again. On my morning commute, I take the same train as two of our QA folks, the head of manufacturing and a couple of scientists in other departments. And none of us dress like executives or anyone you’d think was a manager, we’re on the Casual end of Business Casual.

    2. AfterBurner313*

      No joke. Receptionists, janitors, anyone in a “minion” job. My boss would ask how (X) person behaved before rolling into the interview.

      Most people don’t demand seats. Even if the person “looks” okay, he may have being going for medical treatments, blood sugar acting up, it could be other things that aren’t truly visible. I’d rather give up a seat, then have the person hitting the floor in front of me.

      My friend on the spectrum has blown many a job interview by coming across as a jerk to underlings. You gotta be Bill Gates brilliant for people to over look supposed character flaws.

      1. Lefty*

        Isn’t this one of those business school urban legends that everyone has heard? You only pass the exam if you know the custodian’s name because he always says hello to you in the halls and you’ve been here for 4 years?! (Maybe this is just something I heard?)

        1. Natalie*

          Something as specific as putting the janitor’s name on an exam is probably an urban legend, but it’s completely true and common that being rude to other staff people you encounter at an interview will get you cut from consideration. During my reception stint my bosses always asked me how the job candidate’s behaved while they were waiting.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            And it isn’t purely in a negative way, either. Our maintenance guy at our workplace had been with the company for decades and upper management liked him a lot. Not being friendly with him wouldn’t cause you to be penalized (unless you were outright rude or unpleasant, which was Not Tolerated), but you definitely got Good Person Bonus Points for being pleasant and friendly with him. So it’s not necessarily just fear of being penalized–sometimes being pleasant and friendly can actively help you.

        2. Antilles*

          That specific example, yes, probably an urban legend. But as I posted above, I can personally verify that the general concept of “we pay attention to how you treated our lower-tier staff” absolutely happens.
          Nobody will be expecting you to be a charming smooth-talker and spend hours chatting with the receptionist or the security guard or the janitor. But you shouldn’t be a jerk or treat them like inferiors or etc. Just be polite, reasonable, and professional.

      2. Anon today...and tomorrow*

        Not work related but…years ago my sister had a boyfriend that I hadn’t met and who my mother loved. Mom was having a yardsale and we all showed up early to help her set up. The boyfriend didn’t show up on time and my sister was upset. I was in the driveway when he pulled up and to a passerby I probably looked like a shopper. My sister stepped onto the porch and they started fighting, he called her all manner of nasty names, and I cleared my throat. My sister froze and introduced me. I hated him immediately. He was so fake to my mom all day and after he’d left I told her what happened. She never looked at him the same way again and it wasn’t too long before he stopped coming around.

        Treat people how you want to be treated. It’s simple. It’s a shame that the OP had to learn this lesson in such a hard way, but it’s never too late to do better.

    3. CityMouse*

      We once tossed an intern’s application out because he was rude to our receptionist. He probably wasn’t going to get it anyway but our awesome competent receptionist is worth way more than the most qualified potential applicant, especially a rude one. No way in heck am I doing that to her.

    4. SarahKay*

      I was once in the satisfying position of being able to respond to the rudely-asked question from a job applicant of “Who are you to tell me what the hours of the job are?!?” with the answer “I’m the manager of the department you’d be working in. Shall I assume you don’t want to apply for the job?”

      It was back in my retail days when I managed the Customer Service department, which was also responsible for answering calls through the switchboard. I happened to be covering the switchboard and took the call from the potential applicant who apparently wasn’t thrilled with the stated hours. I guess she assumed that as I was a ‘lowly’ receptionist she didn’t need to be polite to me.

    5. Allison*

      I actually worried about this when I interviewed for the job I have now. Came into the lobby and went straight for the elevator, not knowing I’d need to check in with security, so the security guy said “can I help you?” and I went to show him my ID, but there was a language barrier so I told him who I was there to meet, he misinterpreted what I said and thought I meant a different name that sounded kind of similar, and told me there was no one at the company by that name, so I showed him the e-mail and he said “oh him!” and signed me in. But we both got a little frustrated by the exchange, so when he let me in the elevator he said “good luuuck . . .” which kind of sounded like “you suck and there’s no way they’d hire a jerk like you,” so I actually recounted the incident to the hiring manager. Thankfully, they didn’t think it was a big deal.

    6. Martina Marprelate*

      When I applied for my first office job, I didn’t find out until later that the “receptionist” was the owner’s wife filling in for a sick assistant. Fortunately I was polite because she definitely had veto power over any hiring.

    7. Throwaway*

      I was once assisting on an open call for interviews, and one man kept questioning me angrily every time I went from the interview room to the front desk about why they were “wasting his time”(because he had arrived late, so they took someone else before him). You better believe I told the interviewers in the room all about him before he walked in the door for his interview!

  11. MommyMD*

    Accept it and move on. You appeared extremely rude and callous and it was held against you. It’s not illegal. And I hope you apologized profusely about her coat on the train and gave her money to cover the dry cleaning. Just view it as a life lesson. Good luck in your search. Healthy adults should give up their seat to the elderly, infirm and obviously pregnant.

  12. Wannabe Disney Princess*


    I recently went to Disney World with my mom. Every night, we stayed until the last bus left. And they were always packed. Every time people older/ill/traveling with a small child/etc needed a seat, someone got up. If a bunch of tired, sweaty, cranky people can give up a seat (especially after paying a boatload of money to be there) so can you. The tone of the request makes no difference. If it’s rude you should still take the high road. Rudeness should not beget rudeness.

  13. Snark (formerly Liet)*

    Sounds like you just got a little reminder from the universe that you do not lie at its center, prestigious internships and prodigious intelligence notwithstanding! I don’t want to come down too hard on you, per site rules, but it is astonishing that you think this is an occasion to complain to HR about the unfairness of it all and demand your candidacy be considered independent of your character. I’d suggest you take this as an opportunity to sit in a quiet place, perhaps with a relaxing beverage, and ponder how long you’ve been moving through the world ruthlessly prioritizing your own needs and conveniences, and how to curtail that tendency.

      1. PiggyStardust*

        I live in a major city in the Northeast, and generally people traveling with their bikes during rush hour stand with their bikes to minimize space used. If you had a bike AND were taking up a seat, that’s generally pretty crappy and seems rather entitled.

        1. Beth*

          That’s what I was thinking as well. I tried to say it above but you were much more concise!

        2. Liane*

          I have never seen this kind of arrangement. Wish I’d seen this before. In my defense, I have never lived anywhere that has a public transportation system that is better than “adequate for some situations.”

        3. Katelyn*

          I also live in a major city in the northeast, and my transit system specifically bans bikes at peak hours (7am-10am and 4pm-7pm) because they block doors or aisles or are impossible to get in and out without someone holding a door at some point in the process… which can delay the whole system, and even what people think are tiny delays really add up over a large system!

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I don’t think bikes are allowed on the tube in London at peak time either, but I can’t imagine it. There is NO room. Seriously, if you passed out you would never fall down because all the people squashed against you would hold you up. If I have baggage, I wait until peak time has passed because that is also impossible. I learned pretty fast how to shuck a backpack and stand over it while coming back from Scotland.
            My only other experience with trains was in DC, but it was at night so not crowded. Though I imagine the rules are similar.

            1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

              I had the interesting expression of being pressed so tight against a dignified elderly gentleman that I could count his appendectomy stitches, while we both stared placidly into the middle distance and pretended the other didn’t exist.

          2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Yes, but this was a Sunday night.

            There’s a little “having a bike on a train is rude” thread running through some comments (Using a seat AND having a bike? Thoughtless!) that just doesn’t seem reasonable to me. I don’t disagree that this LW was rude, but just having a bike and sitting in an available seat isn’t rude in and of itself.

            1. Natalie*

              There is a difference between saying something is an imposition (which seems to be the general feeling on bikes on trains) and saying it’s rude. An imposition can or cannot be rude depending on how the person handles it – are they being careful of where there bike is, keeping it out of people’s way, not letting it roll into people? Then they may be imposing a bit, but politely. YMMV.

        4. Alli525*

          I also live in a major NE city, and I’m not sure that I’ve EVER seen a bike on our of our buses. Subway, sure, but not buses. Although this post has revived my longing for bike racks on the front of our buses–I lived in a smallish college town for several years and their bus=mounted bike racks were great.

        5. Sylvia*

          I live in the Southeast and the local public transportation has bike racks. Having a bike inside with you seems odd, but I’m going to assume that’s the best option where OP lives.

          1. Natalie*

            I’m making some assumptions based on location, but the difference is likely bus vs train. For various logistical reasons, the bus generally has a rack in front while trains have racks inside the car or just a foyer space where someone could hold a bike.

          2. Cercis*

            I’ve seen several different configurations. The older, traditional buses had racks on the front that held 2 bikes. Once those were full, you had to wait for the next bus. The transit system got newer, articulated buses and they had the racks on the front and also had hanging racks in the articulated section. That particular arrangement allowed for the bikes to hang between the seats, so you were sitting next to your bike (but very crowded), I can’t find a picture of that.

            In Austin, the trains have seats that fold up and your bike hangs there. As far as I can tell, you can’t have the seats down with a bike hanging. Once those are full, people stand with their bikes. I’ve been on the train during SXSW Eco and you literally were so crowded together you could barely breathe, but there were still folks with their bikes.

            I prefer the system that allows you to sit (crowded) with your bike because it seems to me that you’ll want to be next to your bike if at all possible and you’re not taking up the space of 3 seats for one bike, nor are you having to stand up holding your bike and blocking the aisle. But it appears that that’s rare (since I couldn’t find a pic on google).

  14. Roker Moose*

    I also make frequent use of an overcrowded metro system– getting a seat can be like gold dust. But like Alison says, you’ve got to be prepared to stand if an elderly or pregnant or ill person is in need.

    I’m guessing you were raised without public transport and moved to a larger city after graduation? If so, your ignorance is understandable. But it’s definitely a lesson to learn– if you’re healthy and able to stand, you probably will have to do so.

  15. Wonderful World*

    I agree that not giving up the seat was uncool, but that affecting a hiring decision seems off to me. There was an example recently about non-work behavior (the jerky Tinder user) and people seemed to agree with Alison that it wasn’t appropriate or necessary for that to be reported to an employer. Why is something that happened on a train in a public place with the somewhat subjective details relayed to the CEO through a third party relevant to the permanent hiring of that person in a company? The fact that someone’s wife can chime in and torpedo a hiring decision just seems like some kind of reverse nepotism. Sorry, I don’t get it.

    1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

      As Alison said, it says something about their character and motives. Sort of like how I won’t date a woman who’s rude to the waiter, or how many places ask the receptionist for their impressions of a new hire. Your conduct when you think nobody important is watching says a lot about you. Someone who’s self-centered and rude is going to act that way at work too.

    2. Dee-Nice*

      I think in the other letter the person considering doing the whistle-blowing was not affiliated with the Tinder-user’s place of business at all, and just happened to see where the person worked. In this case, the CEO may have received information about the applicant from a highly trusted source, and it would be strange to not take that into account.

      1. Liane*

        Yes, this. Mrs. CEO–unlike that fellow passenger–didn’t see a company name on OP’s shirt, papers, or phone screen then immediately call/post/text the company or her husband. If he or anybody else at the company heard, it was something like, “What a day! A was fun, B & C went wrong, and That Awful Bus Passenger!”
        Only after she sees him *in the office* does she ask someone who the OP is, then when she hears they’re a candidate, she tells the story.
        And even if Bus Incident is the reason OP lost out on the job, it doesn’t follow that Mrs. CEO demanded OP not be hired.

        1. CityMouse*

          OP is also going to be extra memorable because of the cost. If OP got bike grease on her, that may have completely ruined her coat: bike grease is a huge pain to get off of hands, let alone fabric.

      2. Emi.*

        Yeah, whereas if I were rude to you on Tinder and then it turned out you were on the hiring panel, it would be totally fair to take that into account.

    3. fposte*

      There’s a difference between “not worth reporting a stranger’s behavior to the workplace” and “the workplace has to pretend it doesn’t know”; there’s also a difference between a candidate and an employee.

      1. Claudia M.*

        I think this is dead on, especially in government work.

        If I have to lie and pretend I don’t know, we have a problem, because now I’m complicit in supporting your behavior. If I don’t know, I’m not.

        If my customers over-share, they often back themselves into a corner where I can’t help them because I know the truth, and that blame would fall on me for processing the work while knowing. If I don’t know, the blame falls on them for attempting to fraud the government.

      2. Just Another Techie*

        And also a difference between “random stranger unknown to anyone in the company” and “boss’s trusted family member.” Like if the person who wanted to report the gross Tinder user was the daughter of the CEO of gross-tinder-dude’s company, I think the advice would have been different?

      3. DaisyGrrl*

        > there’s also a difference between a candidate and an employee

        This is a key part of it. The employer is still in the process of deciding whether to extend an offer of employment at this point. Information became available that changed the employer’s evaluation of the candidate.

        If this had happened after LW was hired, I would probably think firing her was a step too far. Watching for signs that the behavior was part of a larger pattern, sure, but not necessarily a firing offence. That said, the LW doesn’t work there yet and the company is well within its rights to decide whether this is a person they want to hire, given the information available.

      4. Mookie*

        Exactly. This is a firsthand account from the CEO’s spouse, not a piece of viral news, gossip, or innuendo stripped of context and reported maliciously. When you’re in public, you’re fair game to be judged in public; act like a jerk and accept that some people will shun your company as a result. There’s no expectation of privacy in this case and under these circumstances, nor is this about protecting a person’s right to live out their personal lives according to their own beliefs.

    4. Jen RO*

      I agree with you. The OP was a bit rude, but honestly I would do the same if I needed the chair for something. I pay the same amount for the bus ticket as anyone else and I don’t see why I should just get up when someone (rudely!) asks for it.

      And getting rejected from a job for that? Absolutely ridiculous.

        1. PiggyStardust*

          My SO is Romanian — raised in Dragasani, went to university in Bucharest, and then immigrated here to work in the U.S. I ran this by him and he said the customs aren’t that different, and giving up your seat for an elderly or disabled person is the same.

        2. RAM*

          As someone who grew up in Romania, we were definitely taught that if a bus or train is full and you are physically capable, you stand up and give up your seat for elderly or otherwise disabled passengers, no ifs, ands or buts about it. It’s a person’s character that will determine what they will actually do, of course…

        3. Jen RO*

          Not different, this is actually *because* I was rudely stood up so many times during my childhood…

        4. CanCan*

          I don’t know about Romania, but when I was growing up in Russia (2-3 decades ago), you (ie. an able-bodied young person) were expected to leap to your feet when an elderly person (inculding a woman age 50+ or maybe even younger – or any woman at all, if you’re a man) entered the bus. If you didn’t, and they had to ask, YOU were being rude. Didn’t matter if you were reading – you should have been paying attention. Didn’t matter your location in the bus.

          Because of this, I preferred finding a quiet corner to stand. At least then you wouldn’t have to judge who is elderly enough – and risk either not offering your seat to somebody who considers themselves elderly/needy, or offending somebody when you do offer your seat, and they’re actually 40 rather than 50.

      1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

        No personal offense intended, but if you’re in Romania….well, let’s say I didn’t find your fair country the politest place on earth.

        1. Corisande*

          Oof. Not Romanian, but having traveled there, I’d say this is unfair. I found people to be perfectly pleasant, they are just used to more formality than the average North American is. In Romania, demanding favours from someone without so much as a ‘good afternoon’ first – I wouldn’t be surprised if locals didn’t wish to accommodate.

        2. Snark (formerly Liet)*

          To answer, I was in Bucharest, and found people to be pretty rude in public. Not in the context of requests, just in daily life.

        3. Jen RO*

          I’m in Bucharest, and I can’t say I disagree. People in smaller cities are nicer – sometimes shockingly nice! Bucharest is a bit of its own world, but I do like it this way – I am not interested in making chit-chat with people I don’t know.

          Then again, I’ve never been in the US, but most Europeans seem to think that Americans are TOO friendly… so – compared to our culture – people in Bucharest probably aren’t AS rude as they seemed to you.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Are public transit norms that different over there? At least in the US, there’s a very clear priority that those for whom standing is difficult, painful, or dangerous get the seats first, period. It isn’t a matter of “you pay the same as everyone else” — that’s not relevant. It’s who can endure standing, including the stop-and-start motion, and who can’t.

        1. EleonoraUK*

          Besides, if anything, people with mobility issues through age or illness are going to be at a disadvantage to get to an available seat ahead of someone else to begin with.

        2. Snark (formerly Liet)*

          You’re paying for transportation. Unless seats are assigned, you’re not paying to sit down, on a bus, train, or any similar such mode.

        3. sam*

          I don’t know about Romania, but I lived in Italy for a while, and there, the buses actually only had a few seats, and they were ALL expected to be ceded to the elderly/disabled/pregnant as necessary. The rest of the space was standing room in order to pack in more passengers.

          That made for some “fun” rides, especially given that Italians do not have nearly the requirement for personal space that americans do. I sometimes look at a “crowded” NYC subway car and think that we could easily pack 2-3x as many people in if we followed the “Italian” way of doing things. And then I’m somewhat glad that we don’t.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            That was my experience living in Spain, too. Many fewer seats than buses in the US (but oh! so much cleaner, nicer, and on time) and labeled or no, they were ALL seats you should give up if needed.

            I did get to witness a group of boys grabbing seats right by the exit door, and then getting thoroughly chewed out by a woman who saw them. Learned a few new naughty words that day!

          2. Elizabeth West*

            It’s like this in London at peak time. I deliberately rode the tube then to see if I could stand it (all the way across town, too) on the off-chance I was lucky enough to move. Yes, I could, but I could definitely see how it would be an adjustment if you weren’t used to it.

          3. Alli525*

            How on EARTH have you seen a crowded NYC subway car and thought it would be possible to cram more people in? I mean, I guess if you remove the seats… but I used to ride a line where, between 5-6:30pm, the majority of the cars would be so crowded that holding onto something was literally unnecessary due to the sardine-like standing arrangement.

            I am very glad I don’t ride that line during rush hour anymore.

              1. Emmylou*

                I’ve totally been in those 14 seater busses and crammed 25 people in in Uganda. Laps are for sitting ;-)

            1. sam*

              Trust me. People in America have NO IDEA how much closer they could cram against each other if (literal) push came to shove.

              Not that I’m advocating it, mind you. I dearly appreciate the invisible bubble that we each apparently have around us in this country, but you haven’t seen close until your face is inches-deep in someone else’s armpit.

              Also, New Yorkers are constitutionally incapable of moving to the center of any subway car, or to the back of the bus. Have you ever stood outside a subway car and watched someone try to cram into a “packed” subway door only to notice that the center of the car is practically empty?

            2. KV*

              You’ve never been on a Tokyo train when it gets really desperate… The kind of crowd where people look at the super packed train car, turn around, and push their way in backwards so they don’t have to look anybody in the eye as they crush them. So crowded you can lift your feet off the ground and not go anywhere.

      3. fposte*

        On most public transit in big U.S. cities, more than half of the car will be people standing during busy times. It’s an accepted norm. (Interestingly, even the long-distance train may not always have seats for you, which was a surprise to me.) You’re not buying a seat, you’re buying the travel.

        1. Jen RO*

          “More than half” sounds like a dream compared to Bucharest standards! My experience is 100 people smelling each other’s armpits, crammed into a bus that’s supposed to hold 80. This is what it looks like at rush hour: (and this is the most modern tram line we have).

          Either way, the expectation here is you get up if you see a visibly pregnant or elderly person, and I usually do. I just dislike being *rudely* ask to give up my seat and I think it’s a huge exaggeration to reject someone from a job because of it.

          1. fposte*

            Okay, there goes my theory that it was different for you because your transit isn’t as crowded :-).

    5. js*

      there is a big difference in those two scenarios- the standing and connection the person has to the company. i don’t think it has to be the CEOs wife necessarily. could have been wife, could have been sibling, could have been the FIL himself, could have been another employee and their own father. could have been the CEOs best friend. all of thosepeople have a connection to the company, which is entirely different than contacting a company you don’t have a connection to. If someone in my circle had a bad interaction with someone I was inteviewing i’d want to know and I’d take it into consideration. Maybe a candidate can overcome that kind of thing if they’re particularly experienced or have a special skill set, but someone at entry-level isn’t likely to be that specialized, no matter how great they think they are.

    6. a Gen X manager*

      Wonderful World, Would you want to work with OP based on the qualities shown when OP thought no one important was watching?

    7. Kalamet*

      I agree with this sentiment, but admittedly I’m cynical and biased re. how people behave in public (husband works retail and people are horribly, unbelievably rude to him on a daily basis). Maybe my problem is that I can’t believe there wasn’t something personal in CEO’s wife’s actions. I don’t think it’s appropriate for someone in a position of authority to jerk around another person’s job prospects over a disagreement on transit. OP was rude, but is the punishment really proportional to the crime, here?

      I guess I’m landing on OP’s side because I don’t think people are being fair to her today. Normally when a young OP makes a social gaffe we give the benefit of the doubt, but it seems like we’re coming down harder than usual. Yeah, it was rude, and wanting to go to HR is naive, but calling her entitled, selfish and rude isn’t really helpful.

      1. EleonoraUK*

        I think the response is as punchy as it is because the OP doesn’t indicate a sense of remorse or understanding she got this one rather wrong at the time. The letter writer’s focus is on how she’s been wronged by fate and the CEO somehow, with no mention of her own failures.

        1. Kalamet*

          Yes, that makes sense, but that’s another thing that goes back to immaturity for me. And we’re usually kinder to immature writers than this. I mean, from the perspective of someone new to the working world, it seems unfair. We understand that life isn’t fair and actions outside of work can have consequences, but OP (clearly) is learning that lesson for the first time.

          I had an interview that went extremely unpleasantly in college, and I reacted badly. In the interview itself, not just in public somewhere else. I sure as hell felt wronged (and still do), but time gave me the understanding I needed to get past it. It’s fine to let OP know she was wrong, but I don’t like that we’re making assumptions about OP’s character based on how she behaved in this one incident.

          1. fposte*

            I don’t disagree; I think it’s the pile-on problem, and it gets exacerbated when you have some outliers with the contrary view. So it’s pretty hard to preclude, but I think it does tend to interfere with the message.

            So just in case: sorry, OP, this was fair–it was just a skill you didn’t realize you were expected to possess. Now you know.

          2. EleanoraUK*

            Not a bad shout; thanks for adding a bit of balance.

            I’ve been thinking about why this particular letter rubbed me the wrong way more than others. I agree with you that there’s a bit of immaturity and lack of experience at play, and the comments would normally be more lenient.

            Where I disagree a little is that in my view, treating others respectfully regardless of their perceived status isn’t something you only learn once you enter the working world, and the OP’s failure to grasp that mistake both in the moment and and on reflection/when writing the letter just makes them look really rather unfavourable in ways that have little to do with age or experience.

            1. Observer*

              Yes, this is what I was thinking. And the reality is that this kind of behavior can come back to bite you in your personal life, too.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Yes, this sums up how I feel, as well. First, there’s the fact that this specific kind of etiquette has nothing to do with work experience. But what I find more irksome is that OP does not seem to acknowledge or realize that what they did was (in most parts of the U.S. and apparently in many other countries) inappropriate, and instead, has focused on trying to rationalize what happened by blaming the CEO’s wife. To be honest, we don’t even know if the CEO’s wife mentioned the story to him or said anything about OP—that’s just OP’s assumption in light of how they perceived prior conversations with HR.

              Usually when we get immature letter writers, their questions and concerns are directly related to issues that come from a lack of work experience or knowledge in the field. But OP’s situation is not that at all.

          3. Mananana*

            It’s also quite possible that the train incident had zero to do with the outcome. Perhaps the OP just didn’t do as well as she thought.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t think it has to be personal though. It could just be “hey, remember that unpleasant incident on the train that I told you about the other day? You’re never going to believe this — I just ran into the guy in your elevator, apparently going to an interview with you.”

        1. Kalamet*

          That makes sense. I still think it’s inappropriate use of a power dynamic based on an isolated incident. But all of this is just my opinion, and I can agree to disagree.

          1. Mookie*

            By ‘power,’ do you mean the power to hire someone? Are you recommending that CEOs (or hiring managers, for that matter) hire blindly, or you comfortable with them using their judgment and applying common sense when gauging the suitability of a candidate? If the former, yes, you’ll probably disagree with most people because that is not how hiring works. There are only “isolated incidents” by which to judge most applicants, and these include interacting with them and seeking out the opinions of people who’ve worked with them; why a first-hand account of a social interaction from someone you trust ought to be dismissed out of hand is unclear and, yes, an unconventional opinion.

        2. Dankar*

          That’s actually what I pictured happening, though I know it’s purely conjecture.

      3. Myrin*

        I’d guess that the “entitled, selfish, and rude” estimation of OP’s character stems from the overall tone and wording of her letter, not from the train situation itself.

      4. Dee-Nice*

        Looking at your comment and the exchange in the replies to you below, I kind of see your point, even though I agree with others who’ve said the LW comes off as unapologetic and un-self-aware.

        I’ve worked in front-facing service positions most of my life (think retail, receptionist, etc) and I agree that people are frequently unbelievably rude. So if I’m 100% honest, there’s part of me that wishes every rude person got some kind of karmic comeuppance. I think that sentiment is likely to be influencing a lot of commenters today.

      5. Dankar*

        Young OPs making professional gaffes generally get a pass because they’re learning. The OP is not learning, at this point in his/her life, how not to be rude.

        Even those interns who petitioned to change the dress code were making a significant error in professional behavior (and boy was that letter-writer taken to task in the comments). This is about basic standards of behavior in public, and that’s a world of difference. As a twenty-something myself, I’m a bit miffed that there are commenters thinking I wouldn’t know better than to behave this way–I absolutely jump up to offer my seat if there’s an elderly person on the train/bus/tram. I’m constantly aggravated that more people don’t do the same (you can’t ALL need the seats!).

        A question to consider for the OP: Did you feel badly about your behavior (including staining the coat) before it negatively impacted you? We all have bad days, but it’s important to reflect on whether we could be kinder, more empathetic people even when there’s nothing on the line for us.

      6. Falling Diphthong*

        In addition to the stated reason for the OP not getting the offer (skills to be developed–it might really be that simple) that “formality” interview could have gone south because the interviewee said any number of poor things. Told jokes about 9/11, for a recent example. Expressed the wrong sports team preference. Said something that indicated to the interviewer that This Is The One Who Broke My Baby’s Heart Last Fall. Just felt off to the CEO’s gut. There is no steel-bound set of hard and soft skills that the CEOs can consider, and going outside of that is just not allowed.

      7. Lyricthrope*

        I think that their actions in this specific case were rude, entitled, and selfish, but that doesn’t mean necessarily that their general character is. However, the tone came across like they were mad that their behaviour may have kept them from getting the job. They even had a second chance to apologize and offer to make amends for the coat needing to be cleaned or possibly replaced, before they discovered she was the CEO’s wife. I agree the OP is being piled on here, and I hope they are able to use this experience and the comments to reassess how they would handle a similar situation in the future. I doubt anyone thinks they’re a complete lost cause who should never get a job, a date, or a seat on public transit for the rest of their life! ;)

        Also, they specifically said they felt they weren’t obligated to give up their seat to *ANYONE* because it wasn’t labelled as priority seating for the disabled/elderly/etc. So, a lot of people have tried to clarify that the expectation is that anyone who can will give up their seat for people who truly need it, and at least say no politely if they can’t. It’s generally considered fine to ignore people, using earphones or a book, but the OP said flat out that they heard the request for the seat and chose to ignore it.

    8. CityMouse*

      I think it is totally fair. You are not just hiring someone in qualifications, you are hiring in fit and personality. I am not hiring someone who is rude to strangers. Say I was behind someone in line at Starbucks and they were rude to the barista and then came in for an interview with me. No way I would hire them. Reporting a third party is different from taking personality into account when hiring.

    9. Not my name*

      I agree with you in part. If someone is rude on a train, I wouldn’t go out of my way to track them down and report it to their employer. In this case, I picture wife going home and telling the story of her day, including this encounter. Then the next day she says to husband “That’s the person from the train!” It really doesn’t fall under any standard work etiquette (why was she there at work?) but it is what it is. There’s nothing to do about it now, no matter how fair or not fair. In general, we would all do better to be kind and generous in our personal lives. If OP had even said “Sorry, I need this seat” it might have turned out differently.

    10. Chriama*

      The CEO’s wife saw her in the building. If creepy tinder guy turned out to be interviewing for a job in your office, I’m sure Alison would say it’s worth bringing up. It’s the difference between sharing information with someone who trusts you as a reliable source of information (and/or whose interests it is assumed you have in mind) vs. being the crazy random person looking to stir up trouble around complete strangers.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        That’s sort of where I fall on this. If someone sent me a gross message on social media, it wouldn’t occur to me to notify their workplace; I’d just sigh and block. If I saw that same person interviewing with my boss, though? You betcha I’d say, “OMG, you’re not going to believe this, but…” I think it’s because sending a message to a workplace with which I am not involved feels like making an extra effort to upset the person’s employment, and so it’s best for everyone to just let it lie. But if they’re interviewing at my company, it’d be an extra effort to not say something, and I don’t feel like I owe them that extra effort.

    11. Roscoe*

      I think the fact that it is the wife of the CEO that makes it different. Put it this way, while I definitely said they shouldn’t report the tinder user, if the person writing in was the daughter of the CEO, and she reported that information, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. The fact that the act was done to someone connected to the company is very different than tracking down the company out of the blue and reporting it.

      1. Lyricthrope*

        I have tracked down the company and reported it when someone was rude, once. My uncle was driving me to their home for the holidays, and someone driving alone in a car with driving school signage cut us off. I don’t recall whether the number was right there or if I googled it, but I contacted them right away with the details of what had happened, license plate, etc.

  16. KHB*

    Agree that the OP behaved badly by ignoring the request for the seat, and that she should write off this job as lost.

    Disagree, though, that paying for the dry cleaning is the right thing to do. She didn’t stain the CEO’s wife’s coat on purpose, and getting your clothes dirty is one of the risks you take when you go out in public. And surely the CEO and his wife are in a much better financial position to absorb the cost of that risk than a young intern is.

    I suppose the OP could offer to pay the cleaning bill as a formality, on the assumption that the CEO will refuse the offer. If the CEO actually takes the OP’s money for this, then he’s behaving just as badly as the OP ever did.

    The OP should not even bring up the possibility of buying the wife a new coat. That’s beyond the realm of the reasonable.

    1. fposte*

      I would have offered to pay in the moment, actually; a bike on the train is enough of an imposition already that you really don’t want people to be out of pocket because you brought it aboard. At this point I don’t think it matters all that much.

      1. KHB*

        The OP said the coat-staining happened when she was getting off the train, so she probably didn’t have time to negotiate the cost of a cleaning bill in the moment.

        And the way I see it is that if the transit authority allows bikes on the trains, the OP wasn’t doing anything rude or imposing by bringing one.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I think you’re right about the timing issue, though I think there’s still time to apologize.

          But I disagree on the second one. I didn’t say it was rude to bring the bike; it can be okay to do it and still an imposition. The fact that something is permissible doesn’t negate the fact that it’s a PITA for other people. Therefore the polite thing to do is acknowledge you’re depending on forbearance.

          1. Beth*

            Per the rules of my local transit authority, bikes are allowed, but not during rush hour, and not when it’s assumed that trains will become crowded during major events (including, well, yesterday, in the US). Heck, strollers are allowed as well, but some people bring giant strollers (not the smaller, folding ones), block doors and seats with them, etc. They DO get in the way, and it’s important to be conscientious about it.

            Even when I wear a backpack on the train — which of course I have every right to do — I still consider it basic decency to be aware of the backpack and how much space it takes up, to not block another seat with it, etc.

          2. EleonoraUK*

            To my mind, it’s like bringing a dog. You can bring a dog to a place, and that’s perfectly fine, but you are responsible for ensuring that dog doesn’t bite anyone or relieve itself and so on.

            A bike’s much easier to control, and if you bring one with a greasy and exposed chain, it’s your responsibility to ensure it doesn’t stain anyone’s clothes. If you get that bit wrong, you offer to make it right. Most people won’t take you up on it, but it’s the decent thing to do.

            I’d feel differently if the bike had been stationery and the CEO’s wife had brushed past it herself, but it sounds like the OP moved the bike past the CEO and effectively wiped the chain on her coat. That’s the OP’s responsibility to fix.

            1. One of the Sarahs*

              Yeah, if you have a bike without a chainguard, you absolutely need to learn to control it before taking it onto a train! I am very pro train-and-bike-commuting, and have done it myself, but bike riders need to be very conscientious about the fact that even if it’s not actively banned, they can cause problems for other people, and damage their stuff.

              1. Lyricthrope*

                Plus, it looks like the low end chainguards only cost around a buck, so not onerous even for a student or intern.

        2. Regina Doublemint*

          I agree – bikes are allowed on public transportation for reasons that benefit us all. I think there is a lot the OP could have done more considerately here, but not bringing a bike isn’t one of them.

          1. LawBee*

            No one in this thread has said she couldn’t bring her bike – just that having one on a packed train is an imposition on everyone else.

            IMO the bigger sin is flat-out ignoring the request to get up, however rude it was.

        3. Jessie the First (or second)*

          “the OP wasn’t doing anything rude or imposing by bringing one”

          No, it was not rude to bring her bike. But why would that mean she should be excused from responsibility for damage she causes? She caused damaged, and so the good and kind and responsible thing to do is to offer to pay for cleaning. I’m allowed to drive my car on the road but if I bump another car I still am responsible for the damage.

          LW had time to notice she stained and damaged the coat, so she had time to say sorry and offer money towards dry cleaning.

          1. KHB*

            “LW had time to notice she stained and damaged the coat, so she had time to say sorry and offer money towards dry cleaning.”

            That really doesn’t follow. The time between noticing the stain and having to get off the train was probably 10-15 seconds at most. That’s enough time to say sorry, sure. But you think it’s also enough time for the OP to get out her wallet, count out an amount reasonably approximating a dry-cleaning bill, hand it to the woman, explain what it’s for, put her wallet away, collect her things, and get off the train? While holding (at least) a bike and a bag full of reading material? And being careful to make sure the bike chain doesn’t snag anyone else? And probably wearing a coat herself, if it was coat-wearing weather?

            I’m having trouble imagining how this would work.

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              You have waaaaaaayyyy more steps there than I do, so sure, your process would not work, and I certainly would not hold it against the letter for not managing all that you list in the short time frame.

              But I have trouble seeing that a quick “Oh, I’m so sorry, let me pay for dry cleaning, my number is xxx-xxx-xxxx – let me know!” is too much to manage.

              Failing that, a simple and brief apology, nothing more. Followed by an offer to pay in the elevator.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I think you’re adding a lot of process that isn’t common when someone screws up. If you cause damage and you’re on the go, apologize in the moment and leave someone your card (or a post-it or something with your name and number). If you have a bit of time as you off-board, you can make the offer right then and there. I don’t think anyone’s recommending that OP should have begun *serious negotiations* regarding the dry cleaning bill.

              But even if you don’t have time to offer to pay for the cleaning for the coat, as Jessie notes, you can at least apologize. That doesn’t seem to have happened, here.

            3. Jess*

              OP knew he damaged the coat, and he left the train. He didn’t inconvenience himself by staying on to the next stop and making sure he accounted for what he did. He got someone’s coat stuck in his bike, was aware enough of what was going on to know he stained it, and then he took off (after pretending she was invisible when she asked for a seat for her dad).

    2. Artemesia*

      Getting bike grease on my coat should not be a natural risk of riding on the metro or bus; it is an enormous imposition to haul a bike on the train and the person doing it has a responsibility to not cause further damage with it. Of course if you grease up someone’s coat, you offer to have it cleaned. and next time you stand with your bike and are more careful. Stuff happens, but that doesn’t mean when you are responsible for that stuff happening you don’t take responsibility for it. Even an abject apology might have helped the situation although refusing to let the old guy have a seat probably sealed the deal on the job.

      1. Kate 2*

        Exactly! Not to get all “sandwiches”, but what if she was poor? What if that was her only coat? There are people who have very nice clothes, from Goodwill or better days when they had more money, but who make very little money. You never know.

    3. Temperance*

      I disagree with this. Frankly, LW was the cause of the stain, so the right thing to do would have been to apologize and offer cash for dry cleaning.

      1. KHB*

        I’m not talking about “would have,” though – I’m talking about what the OP’s obligations are now, with the extra context that the woman with the stained coat is the CEO’s wife (and also that the OP is likely to be out of a job soon).

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think there’s an exception to manners that says, “If you think the other person is loaded, you don’t have to make a good faith offer to repair the damage you caused.” The fact that OP won’t have a job may lead the CEO’s wife to politely decline the offer, but OP should still make the offer if they can do it in an appropriate way.

    4. Kate 2*

      I’ve gotta say, staining, perhaps ruining someone else’s coat, and then saying it is one of the risks of being in public, sounds like a very entitled attitude.

      As a society, we generally expect that a person in public does everything they can to not make other’s lives worse.

      For example, rather than telling people to just walk around dog poop and “deal with it” if their shoes are ruined by walking in it, we have laws requiring dog owners to remove their dog’s poop from sidewalks and grass. If they don’t obey they are fined.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      “She didn’t stain the CEO’s wife’s coat on purpose”

      There are many times in life where we pay for something even though we did not “do it on purpose”. Kid hits a baseball through the neighbor’s window. Parent pays. I lost control of my car on ice. I did not aim for that mail box. I paid. Just because it was not on purpose does not mean responsibility goes away.

      Some expression of regret from OP could have relieved the problem. I would have asked her if she was alright because I would have assumed I hit her with my bike. So my first concern would be her physical well being. If she said, “It’s just my coat”, then that would relieve some of my concern.

  17. Chatterby*

    The LW could probably ask the HR contact for any feedback for improvement, without mentioning the train issue or the CEO’s wife.
    It’s entirely possible there was something else, and feedback is always helpful.

    1. Kopper*

      This! I was just thinking that it could have actually been something else entirely in the final interview. The LW is assuming it was the train incident, and it might have been, but it also might not have been.

    2. Anon Accountant*

      I completely agree. The LW states that in their meeting they received some feedback about areas they can improve on. I wonder if they were not offered the job for some completely different reason.
      As unfortunate as it is, people are not always the best about giving direct, timely feedback. Lw, Unless you were told that your behavior on the train caused you to lose the job I’d recommend seeking feedback from HR about what you could have done differently to be offered a job. As much as I think LWs behavior on the train was unacceptable, I also think that you are owed clear feedback at the end of an internship that apparently was expected to lead to a job offer.

    3. Lyricthrope*

      The OP said, “My interview that day went very well. However, I was not offered the job! I was given some feedback about the skills that I have to develop but that was all. I am not sure HR knows about the above as nobody mentioned it.” So, it’s entirely possible that their not getting the job had nothing to do with the train/bike incidents, or that they lacked some expected skills in addition to their rudeness.

  18. spek*

    Wow I’m a disabled vet, and even I get up and give my seat to a pregnant woman or an elderly person. And nothing is more annoying than a young able-bodied person sitting in a seat and pretending to not notice me with a cane standing in front of her. And someone actually needed the seat bad enough to speak up and ask for it, and you ignored her? I know we are not supposed to pile on to letter writers, but from what you have written I am finding it hard to believe that you are not a Bad Person.

    1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

      I choose to charitably assume OP has the makings of a decent person once they do a little self-interrogation.

      1. Not my name*

        Very good. We can all improve if we make the effort. OP is not irredeemably evil.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Please don’t judge people who appear to be able bodied. They might also be disabled and need that seat.

      1. MechanicalPencil*

        As someone with a chronic condition that doesn’t physically manifest to the average passerby, if I actually ask for a seat, it’s a Very Bad Day. Sitting down is probably the only thing keeping me for tossing my cookies or passing out, or any combination thereof.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Same here. I don’t take public transit anymore, but I have very bad vertigo and it was very difficult for me to stand on the bus.

      2. Lyricthrope*

        There’s nothing wrong with that, but they shouldn’t ignore the person making the request. Just saying, “Sorry, I really need to sit” is fine.

    3. chocolatechipcookie*

      I would have likely done the same as OP in my younger days, especially if I was tired from walking around all day. Rudeness unfortunately can distract from the real issue and cause people to react poorly. That doesn’t make me or OP a Bad Person, just someone who has some growing up to do and exhibited some bad judgment.

      1. fposte*

        I think this is a fair point that deserves a little more air. It’s a reasonable thing to judge the OP on, but it doesn’t mean she’s going to hell or will never get a job anywhere; it was a mistake, and the fact that she didn’t learn from it immediately doesn’t mean she won’t soon enough.

  19. 2 Cents*

    It’s not as if the OP said, “No, I’m sorry, I need this seat,” (not all disabilities are invisible, so it’s plausible that the able-looking person the wife asked was the worst person to ask), but the OP pretended not to hear her at all — didn’t acknowledge her presence in the slightest, which is just rude. Then to dirty/ruin clothing with bike grease and not say anything is just icing on this rudeness cake.

    OP, consider how you’d feel if the situation was reversed, you were traveling with an older companion (with a disability, poor balance, low stamina?) on a packed train and then later found your clothing ruined by an anonymous person … who turned out to be the interviewee at your company the next day. That would inform your view of that person, no?

    1. Beth*

      It’s quite possible that she asked the person with a bike purposefully, because chances are if someone can ride a bike, they are also physically able to stand up.

    2. BananaPants*

      Frankly, if someone has a bicycle on a train I’m going to assume they’re able-bodied enough to ride it and therefore would be a good choice to approach in giving up their seat.

      In our area, public transit (all buses) have bike racks – you can’t bring your bike inside the bus.

      1. AfterBurner313*

        I’m guessing it was a folder bike like a Brompton or something like a Strida. Both Bromptons and Strida fold sort of like a umbrella stroller so you can move it on one wheel. The Brompton can tuck under the seat and a Strida would be next to you long and skinny.

        I can’t believe a regular bike would be allowed to clog up the aisle way.

        The Strida uses a belt instead of a chain, so no grease there. The tires do street grime on them. My friend wipes down the tires before getting on the bus with his Strida. Under a minute to not get other people’s clothes accidently dirty. Does he have to do it? No, but being considerate costs nothing.

        20 something with an expensive folder acting like a d-bag, yeah…doesn’t scream hire me.

        1. Katelyn*

          I’ve seen plenty of regular bikes on my local subway line… probably more than the foldey-types. Mostly people are good at not trying to bring them on at peak hours, but not always!

      2. Not my name*

        Here, buses have racks outside. Trains do not. You have to bring your bike on the train.

      3. nonegiven*

        My mom hurt her foot and has trouble walking very far. She can ride her exercise bike with no problem so I assume she could ride a regular bike if needed, unless her vertigo was triggered by it.

        1. Laura*

          Yes, but the rider here is lugging the bike on and off the train! They are clearly fit.

  20. Sn*

    This reminds me of the job candidate who lost out on a job because she bullied someone else at that same workplace.

    You can’t “badmouth” someone if the account of your behavior actually happened so please stop seeing the CEO’s wife as the bad guy here. She’s not. This is about you and no one else.

    Let’s be totally honest here. You didn’t care about ignoring a fairly reasonable, common request and staining someone’s clothing until you lost something that mattered to you. If this woman wasn’t the CEO’s wife, would you even have given your behavior a second thought? I’m guessing not.

    Putting it another way: when your behavior was inconvenient to someone else, it wasn’t a problem. But when your behavior inconvenienced yourself, then you wanted to make amends. That’s the character issue AAM is referencing.

    Also, I’m not sure you’re thinking about this either, but nowhere in your letter do I see an apology or some form of remorse. Something you need to reflect on. This incident isn’t about a seat on public transportation and a dry cleaning bill.

    1. LKW*

      This is exactly what I was thinking. Would the LW’s behavior changed if they knew that the person asking for the seat was the CEO’s wife? My guess is yeah probably.

      Showing consideration for others shouldn’t be based on who they are and what they can do for you – see comments regarding janitors, receptionists, etc. Consideration is part of the overall social contract: If possible, give up your seat when asked, don’t assume someone is or is not healthy. Be courteous.

      AKA – follow the Wil Wheaton rule: Don’t be a dick.

  21. Katie the Fed*

    I work with some people who are extremely talented at the technical aspects of their jobs, but just awful to work with in general because they treat other people terribly.

    Being good at your job usually isn’t enough – you have to also be someone who can work well with others.

    I think you should offer to pay for her coat cleaning just because it’s the right thing to do, but count this job as gone. I’d also take the opportunity to do a little soul searching on how you treat others.

  22. Thinking Outside the Boss*

    Giving up a seat is a cultural issue, and I think for most AAM readers (US/Canada/UK), not giving up your seat to the elderly, regardless of infirmity, is considered rude. The same is true if you don’t give up your seat for a pregnant women, a priest, a monk, or the disabled, to name a few.

    In Japan, it’s considered rude to offer to give up your seat to the elderly because it implies that the elderly person is infirm and needs help–it’s a sense of pride in being physically fit at an older age and the older person doesn’t want to be viewed as needing help. But given the OP’s use of terms, I think the OP doesn’t live in Japan.

    The kicker for me was the coat incident. Obviously the OP knew she marked the wife’s coat but the OP, based on the post, didn’t stop at that time and offer to pay for cleaning or even apologize. Maybe the OP did and just left it off the post. But if the OP didn’t, refusing to give up your seat to the father and then mark the wife’s coat with your bicycle tire would be viewed, for most people, as passive-aggressive retaliation for asking for the seat in the first place.

    Actions have consequences. And the OP certainly has the right to not give up the seat. But the employer also has the right to not offer the job. If that was the reason for the lack of an offer, probably one of the most expensive lessons learned about public transportation etiquette.

    1. (Different) Rebecca*

      I’m actually less inclined to ding the OP for not offering in the moment. There’s really not much time if one is still going to get off at that stop in which to pause and chat about what happened to whose belongings, and many people, myself included, see that as the potential price of cheap public transport. Now, I will ding them for not immediately offering once they knew who the woman was, or even upon seeing her again in the elevator. A “oh my god, I was so rude and hurried the other day, let me apologize and pay for the damage” might have gone a very long way.

      1. KR*

        Yeah – I think OP could have turned it around and said something like, “I’m so sorry about the other day, that rudeness is out of character for me and with the rush to get off the train the other day I didn’t have time to give you my information for dry cleaning costs. Please let me know how much the dry cleaning costs will be and pass my apologies to your father. “

      2. Bess*

        I’ll agree with this. In the moment the doors open and close pretty quick, so I’d really just be profusely apologizing but in the rush (and particularly if I were wrangling a bike) it might not occur to me to stay an extra stop/offer to pay to clean. BUT I’d be sincerely apologizing at the very least, and it’s weird that the OP doesn’t mention doing that. And, yeah, the elevator is the missed opportunity for a better apology and/or offer to clean the clothing.

    2. Fiennes*

      Interesting point about culture. I’m generally pretty quick to offer my seat if someone older/with a small child/etc doesn’t have one — but I’ve noticed that older men are sometimes reluctant to take them. I think the old rule of giving up your seat to a lady was impressed on them when they were young, and as long as they’re remotely capable of standing, they won’t take a seat from a woman. Whereas if a guy then offers his seat, they’ll take it. The unspoken politics of these things can get complicated!

      1. Just Another Techie*

        I once witnessed an interaction where a young black man tried to give up his seat to an elderly white gentleman, on a train in the northeast of the US. The older man was so incensed at the presumption that he wasn’t healthy enough to stand, he totally lost his temper and started screaming at the younger guy to sit back down. The younger guy refused (I don’t know why) and eventually the old guy yelled at me to take the vacant seat, as I was the only female-presenting person in the car. It was pretty ridiculous all around.

        1. JeanB in NC*

          That reminds me of a Douglas Adams story about waiting for a plane (or something) in Africa with his camera crew and there was only one short covered bench. All the guys were trying to be so polite to let someone else sit down that it ended up with everyone standing! (Of course, after a bit the Scottish guy muttered something Scottish and ended up laying down on the bench.)

      2. Sylvia*

        It can. I’ve run into the same thing. I don’t want to be rude to them by not offering help, but I also don’t want to be rude to them by offering help they’ll feel undermines them. :/

      3. mrs__peel*

        As a younger woman, I found that offering seats to older men was a bit of a social minefield. There are some who clearly need it, but there are also a lot who seem to find it a painful blow to the ego. (Like when younger people start calling you “sir” or “ma’am”…)

        I always got up if asked (of course), but I was often hesitant if I should offer it to an older man without a visible cane, walker, etc. I didn’t want to offend anyone!

      4. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I was at a women’s festival recently and was helping in the kitchen. I offered to take a big tub of potatoes from one of the older (probably 70-ish) women, and she refused my help with a little smile and, “I’m still butch.” Still makes me smile when I think of it.

      5. Kate 2*

        I have found that elderly-seeming people of both sexes can be very upset when you offer them a seat. Now I don’t offer, I just wait and see if they ask for one. I have had/seen a couple of bad incidents when a person tried to give a seat to an elderly looking person who turned out to be only 50 or even 40!

        1. HR is fun*

          I’m early 40s, able-bodied, and not pregnant. A woman recently offered her seat to me on the subway. I politely declined but she kept offering. Maybe 3 more times. I kept politely declining. Really, lady, you are totally giving me a complex! I don’t even have gray hair!

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Generally the rider does not have a “right” to a seat. The rules of carriage for most public transit requires giving up a seat to those who need it not just a designated seat.

      I would also think (though I am American) that in Japan it would still be quite rude to ignore an elderly person who asked for a seat. For most (or many) people, asking for a needed seat is going to be difficult to do – to just ignore another human being asking for a reasonable amount of help is what is galling to people her. The OP was asked for a seat, not a kidney.

      1. Just Another Techie*

        I lived in Osaka for a year, and IME, there were always plenty of empty seats labeled as being reserved for elderly and disabled passengers. So if an elderly person needed to sit, they almost never needed to ask someone to give up their seat. Unlike in Boston, where people will sit in the reserved seats if it looks like no one around needs them, in Osaka, even when the bus was hella crowded, people would leave those seats empty just in case.

        1. Kate 2*

          Interesting. I have never heard, in America, of seats being reserved for the elderly. In my city we have seats specially labeled for the elderly, disabled, and pregnant that anyone can sit in. If you sit there though, and are not one of the three, you are legally required to give up your seat if you are asked by a member of one of the three groups.

          1. KV*

            It’s the same in all the cities I’ve been in Japan. You can sit in those seats if you need to, but you are supposed to get up if someone in those categories needs a seat. Trains aren’t usually packed enough that it’s an issue unless it’s peak rush hour.

      2. KV*

        In my area of Japan there’s signs all over the trains in my area that say you should offer a seat to someone in need because of health reasons, or if they’re elderly, pregnant, or traveling with children. I and others give up seats all the time as a courtesy, and certainly if someone asked, anybody decent would get up.

        Do you see more old people out doing their own thing without assistance in Japan? For sure (same with little kids which weirds me out far more), but offering up a seat is seen as a kindness, not condescending.

    4. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      I am in the US and generally will not offer my seat to someone who appears able-bodied, regardless of age. However I certainly would give it up if asked, or if the person is otherwise signaling that they would like to sit down.

    5. BigJlittlej*

      I’ve been riding public transport in the US for decades and have never heard of giving up your seat for a priest or a monk, just because they are a priest or a monk. That seems really strange.

      1. Willow*

        Same here. If they’re elderly or something sure, but not just because of their profession.

      2. Tealeaves*

        I’ve not heard about priests, but in places like Thailand where religion is very important to them, people respect monks a lot. They even have seats marked as reserved for monks. It’s a profession but not one you only do 9 to 5. It’s your whole life 24/7 from the moment you commit. It’s a very difficult “job” to give up your normal material life to be a monk, and not everyone can pass the test to even be accepted as one in the first place. It’s actually a really formal process.

    6. former JET*

      I lived in Japan for several years and often observed people offering seats to the elderly, so I’m not sure I agree about that being rude. (Unless maybe this a regional difference thing?) I would be more surprised to see someone ask for a seat, since the culture is so strongly geared toward not being a bother to others.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Yeah, that wasn’t my experience in Japan. But there think they’re more worried I’ll talk to them :)

        Public transportation in Japan is just a pleasure, even when the trains are insanely packed. It made returning to DC all that more jarring.

    7. LKW*

      From a cultural perspective, it’s not that much difference in the west when you offer your seat to an elderly man. Sometimes it is seen as an insult. However, in this case, there was an actual request. If a man is asking for a seat, or someone is asking on behalf of him, then it is safe to assume that that internal battle is fought and over with. Give up the seat.

    8. Cassie*

      My boss, who has gone to Japan for business often, told me the same thing (about it being perceived as being rude). I guess the way to give up your seat without being rude culturally would be to just voluntarily get up (without asking) so a seat just happened to be free and the person can sit in it if he/she so chooses.

      When I travel with my mom on vacation (in Asia), people would offer her seats about 75% of the time, priority seating and non-prioirty seating. Even on packed trains, where it’s kind of difficult to see everyone and judge whether you should offer a seat, someone would invariably wave her over. If no one offered a seat, I’d asked her if she wanted to sit down (because I was going to ask someone to move), she’d say “no, it’s okay” and then someone nearby would get up. I actually don’t know if I even know how to ask for a seat in the language of the country we were visiting, tbh.

    9. Bonky*

      Wow – I didn’t know that about Japan, and happily it’s not been my experience (I spend a lot of time there and I’m always uncomfortably aware of how many etiquette rules I must be unconsciously breaking). I was there last December, when I was quite visibly pregnant, and two really very elderly ladies, one with a stick got onto the subway. I got out of my seat (one of the very few for pregnant/elderly/disabled people – they’re marked as such) and offered it to the lady closest to me who had the stick, who seemed very pleased and relieved. I really, hand on heart, don’t think she was offended.

      The very young guy sitting next to me didn’t budge, but that’s a different story.

  23. phil*

    I used to be in the entertainment business and that production assistant you were rude to 3 years ago is the producer you trying to get a job with today.
    Be nice to everybody.