Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Get your butt up

The argument was raging in at least two languages and the old woman was going to win. I didn't have a good view of what was going on or who the other parties were, but the old woman had that certainty that comes with age and being a native in a tourist town. She also had back-up. There were two other women, also past 70, standing beside her as she sat in her chair.

All three turned and pointed to me. Uh-oh. One said something in Portugese and I responded the only way I could, in English, "I don't speak Portugese." I was told in English, "You want to sit." As a modern woman, well trained that pregnancy is not an illness, I said, "No. It's OK."

The old women were having none of it. The bus was well past capacity and I was in my third trimester and getting elbowed in the belly every time the bus lurched. Everyone was apologetic but the elbows of standing adults are at belly height and I was less than well balanced. I was told, "You sit." My husband said, "They aren't going to give up." I stepped toward them and the young man reluctantly got out of his seat.

The old woman who'd chased him out of the seat for me then proceeded to work on his girlfriend. Next to my seat were signs I'd become familiar with in Portugal. Much like we have the white wheelchair on blue backgroung sign to mark handicapped spaces the Portugese mark spaces with a three part sign of white outlines on blue. Part one is a man with his arm in a sling and a cane. Part two is a pregnant woman. Part three is a man holding a baby. All three are displayed together and much like Americans avoid the handicapped bathroom stall the Portugese avoid these seats on buses, trams, and trains. At one point I'd been holding our daughter and sat my big ol' pregnant booty down in one of these on a train. When my husband sat down beside me a local told him to get up. I handed him our 20 month old and then he was allowed to sit without complaint, handy since my belly is so big I had no lap for her to sit on.

Back on the bus, the old women were repeatedly gesturing to the signs and pointing at the woman sitting across from me. They pointed to my husband who was holding our young daughter as well as the two older women who were standing. They thought she didn't meet the standards of the seat.

It's entirely possible she had some sort of not readily visible handicap but she came across like an entitled beast. She made it clear than in her opinion my seat was marked handicapped but hers was free for the first person who took it. She told them assorted versions of no in Spanish, adjusted her D&G sunglasses so she wouldn't have to make eye contact, primped her expensive haircut and generally disdained their attempts to move her. She and her boyfriend successfully overcame the language barrier to convey how annoyed they were to be three feet apart instead of seated together.

The Spanish woman eventually yelled, "STOP!" I guess English is the universal language for ending arguments because they did stop.

The next 20 minutes proceeded quietly but I almost fell over with laughter when we reached the end of the line and stood up to exit. Upholstered on the seat she refused to vacate were three basic motifs: man with a sling and a cane, pregnant woman, and man with a baby.


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