Gerry Harnden writes...

By Times Reporter in Community News

RECENT report on ‘BBC Women’s Hour’ informed us that a major complaint circulating amongst today’s sisterhood against men is their habit of spreading their legs wide open on public transport to the detriment of the person sitting next to them.

The aim of this ‘man-spreading’, apparently, is for the gents to assure maximum comfort for themselves, whilst not caring a fig about those sharing their berth on the bus or train.

Well, talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Especially after a hard day’s shopping down the High Street, the homeward-bound ladies love nothing more than to spread their recently acquired bags of goodies protectively around them, thus depriving anyone else of a comfy spot to deposit themselves on.

The females responsible invariably choose the seat nearest the aisle to park their bottom on, with their cargo of shopping piled up on the window-side.

This gives any hapless would-be fellow-passenger the extra embarrassing task of squeezing clumsily past them to reach the notional ‘free’ place.

Both sexes are acting badly. But, to be honest, the male offenders, with their tacky, intrusive sprawling tend not to be fussy about which particular side to choose for their base. They don’t care if the companion next to them ends up squashed against the window like a fly or flat out on their back on the floor.

I recall from my own distant days as a bus-conductor that there was a time when that august uniformed official reigned supreme and stopped similar untoward behaviour with quips such as, ‘Who do you think you are, mate? Onassis or Tarzan? Get your legs away from that lady’s thighs! You don’t know where they’ve been.’

Or, ‘Excuse me, missus, but if you want a full delivery service to your ‘ouse, you’ll find a taxi-rank by the Garon’s Clock.’

These days, there’s a strange stalemate about imposing any manners or social correctness. Nobody dares draw attention to brazen discourtesy, for fear of seeming a snob or trouble-maker.

Allied to this is a widespread lack of self-confidence, making insecure folk unable to take the initiative to be polite, conversational or thoughtful.

It’s a bit like those adolescents going home after school, who are terrified of looking ‘normal’ or ‘uncool’ in front of their peers. They reinforce their lack of grace and conformity by sitting, limbs everywhere, whilst riveting their gaze on their mobile phones to block out anybody trying to clamber over them.

The answer is clear. But few of us have the bottle to take the necessary ‘direct action’ with our elbows, posteriors or voices. Sadly, it’s a case of ‘Who dares wins!’

The oafish and the smug have the upper hand.

‘Sit properly!’ ‘Watch your language!’ ‘Move along the bus!’ Those are commands you never hear now. In the past, a determined passing poke from the ticket-machine would soon have sorted the problem out.

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