Last Friday, author and journalist Lynn Harris published a "Complaint Box" post on CityRoom about how hard it is for pregnant women to find seats on the subway, based on her experience during her two pregnancies and her friends' experiences. She writes that while people are very nice to offer her seats when she's taking the subway with her now-born children, she wonders, "Where were you people when I was pregnant? Oh, right. You were sitting comfortably in your seats. While I stood. In August."

If anyone did give up a seat — which, O.K., did happen, on days when there was a partial eclipse, a unicorn sighting and alternate-side parking suspended, or when I finally started asking for one — the donors appeared in this order of likelihood: (1) older woman, (2) younger woman, (3) minority man.

A white man? Not on the list. Didn’t happen. Not once. Oh wait, once. That guy with a Playbill from “Jersey Boys.” Not a local.


Of course, besides empathetic remarks from other women who have experienced similar behaviors, the comments range from "i’ve always given my seat to preggos. im white as they come: irish american" (link) to "You don’t like rude men? Excuse me, darling, but then what are you doing here in New York, and taking the subway, no less? Next time, do yourself a favor and shell out the extra $$ for cab fare." (link)—and there's a share of "In this country, it’s still a choice to have a child. And if you choose that, you gotta take the bad with the good and not complain" (link) and "If you want to experience Mid-Western manners, come live in the Mid-West-you’re welcome!" (link). Some riders aren't sure if some women are pregnant—while others say they are honestly too worn out from the day to necessarily notice who's standing around them, so please ask!

Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal's Jennifer Merritt tackled the same issue—"I just had the fourth day in a row where I stood much of the way on my 40-minute subway ride. I’m 6.5 months pregnant-and it’s obvious-and not a single person offered me a seat" — on a WSJ blog. The comments are very similar—"I’ve seen pregnant (and not pregnant but apparently just fat) women tell off people who offer them seats, saying I’m not disabled. You can’t win." The MTA says it'll fine people $50 for not giving up seats to the disabled (and pregnant women apparently qualify as short-term disabled), but how is that even enforced?