Etiquette. I find it underrated, rather like manners I would say.
You give up your seat on the tube for a pleasant lady who says thank you and you think nothing of it.You give up your seat for someone who forgets their manners and suddenly it's a big deal. Please and Thank you's aren't hard to say, they take a brief moment-but it's one word (or lack of) that can make the difference between you saying "don't mention it" and you thinking "you ungrateful rat". Like I said, underrated but important nonetheless. Etiquette is what makes you willing to give up a seat. Manners are what make you say thank you.
Most people, I would guess, know the appropriate times to say please and thank you; most know that it would be right to give up your seat for the elderly or for a pregnant lady, and I presume most people wait for people to get off the tube before getting on. So why is it that rush hour robs us of every ounce of etiquette? (ashamedly me included). We go from polite citizen to crazed commuter all depending on the time of day. Is it because we are rushing to get to a job (that we hate?) or dying to get home to a bed we love? It may simply be because we are running late, but every single commuter at any given time cannot simultaneously be running late can they?
The orderly scenario that happens when waiting for a tube mid-afternoon:
Go to the platform- look at noticeboard- wait patiently on the platform behind the yellow line- remain unconcerned by the growing number of passengers waiting alongside you- the tube comes- you wait for people to get off- you may even outstretch your arm offering to let your fellow passenger on-board first- you remain standing or sit down depending on whether a seat is available but it doesn't make a difference to your journey.
The usual scenario come 6pm:
Shuffle to the platform- look at the noticeboard and curse under you breath the next train will come in 3 WHOLE minutes- get agitated by the growing number of people gathering alongside you- the tube comes- you eye up your competition ready to leap on board first- you curse silently again at the slow person getting off the tube blocking your path to the only free seat- you dash on-board using elbows to 'discreetly' shove others out the way- and once more you are dismayed when some selfish arsehole has grabbed that seat you were eyeing up through the tube window. [But you would have been that selfish arsehole if you got the seat right? Not that you care because you got the seat- but that's the point. We don't care- our etiquette vanishes! I rest my case.]
I only write this because the other day I was etiquette-less, made a beeline for the free seat, and lost it to a lady who had (and used) her ammunition- umbrella and briefcase- to shove every contender out the way. I was left standing squished between two burly men, front and back whose bellies protruded so much I didn't have to hold the hand rail for balance. They did that for me. As the tube rattled along the tracks and swayed everyone back and forth, I bounced between two bellies quietly smirking at the farce of not having to hold onto anything at all. I would have been content if it weren't for the BO coming from their armpits and the grunge music raging out their headphones.