Forcing Your Seat Upon the Disabled, Sticking It to Brangelina's Adopted Kids, and Other Questionable AdviceS

Welcome to Thatz Not Okay, a regular column in which I school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay. Please send your questions to caity.weaver@gawker.com with the subject "Thatz Not Okay."

The other day I caught a bus home after work. It was rush hour and the bus was fairly crowded when I boarded. I was lucky to find a seat on the aisle near the middle door. After a couple stops, the bus became considerably more crowded. A man I judged to be in his early 30s entered and because there were no seats available wound up standing in the aisle near my seat. He was a very large man. I would say, obese. So large, in fact, that he was taking up the whole aisle, and people could not exit or enter the bus due to him blocking the aisle/exit door. It was like a block in an artery. I offered the man my seat, not only for his own benefit, but also so everyone else on the bus would not be caught in his blockage. He declined quiet forcefully, saying he was not handicapped and didn't need to be singled out. I feel like I was right in recognizing that his heft needed special attention, so everyone else could ride more comfortably. Is that okay?

Thatz okay.

Short of burning down their barns or murdering their families, inconveniencing people on public transit is one of the worst things a person can do to their fellow human beings. Even the most docile individuals become enraged torture porn enthusiasts when the subway stops and that one surly girl refuses to give up her spot near the doors to let people off.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with offering your seat to someone, particularly if they are:

  • disabled/elderly/pregnant/FAMOUS
  • inconveniencing others under the current seating arrangement

The man in your story is a masochist playing a martyr. He didn't earn any points from anyone by continuing to block the aisle. What kind of monster doesn't want to sit down on the bus, anyway? I'm not handicapped either and I would and have killed for a seat on the bus during rush hour. Have you considered that this man was, in fact, wearing a fat suit stuffed full of high explosives, which is why he felt the need to move so delicately? Forget offering him a seat—the proper course of action would have been to call the police and identify this man as a terrorist.

If he's large enough that he automatically assumes people are offering him seats because of his weight, it's understandable why this man might be sensitive about his size. At the same time, public transit requires considerate behavior.

As long as you didn't make a big deal about how you were inconveniencing yourself to give a seat to him and only to him because he was so huge, it's hard to see how you were in the wrong here. Perhaps you could have given him the seat more discretely by simply standing up, moving away, and hoping he'd claim it, but there's always a chance he would have insisted upon standing anyway, to make a point to no one.

The only instance in which you should not have given up your seat is if you are yourself disabled, elderly, or pregnant (or FAMOUS). Nothing more pitiful than a frail old woman giving up her bus seat because she feels sorry for you. (Nothing more depressing than a frail old man sitting alone on a park bench built for two.) In that case, a more able-bodied person should have offered up his or her seat in your place, while you enjoyed your coveted plastic throne.

Very nice job slipping the blocked artery reference in there, by the way. Never give up your seat in the Hall of Great Wordsmiths (unless someone standing is blocking the exit).

I have been married for several years now. My wife blends well with my family and in general I enjoy hers. My family is sort of drinky/sweary/funny/party and hers is very much sincere! enthusiastic! because of Him! Get it? They're religious. We are both nice, moral, secular people.

We have a ton of biological as well as adopted nieces and nephews and they're all great kids. I've been invited to the airport to join the family in welcoming a new teenage adoptee and I feel really awkward about it. I'd like to meet this new family member after they're had time to acclimate to America and there's not so much pressure and likely praying and thanking of god in public at the airport, etc. My wife wants us to go. I want to enjoy snacks and dips with this person at a holiday function in the future when it's a little less heavy. Also, I want to relax on Saturday, I work hard, dammit! Is that okay?

Dear James Haven,

Thatz not okay.

I completely understand where you're coming from, in terms of not wanting to hassle America's hottest import: Your New Nephew at the airport.

Regardless of how hard you work, though, (too damn hard!) I would lose this as an excuse for wanting to skip the blessed event. "Sorry new guy from Cameroon, I've got a Pawn Stars marathon with my name on it and also what I'm pretty sure is a genuine Confederate sword," doesn't sound great.

A better reason is that that the parade of proselytizing will, as you mentioned, make you uncomfortable. An even better reason is that the last thing this poor kid needs when he steps off the plane from Monaco to meet the foreigners he will live with forever is to be swarmed by a huge cluster of their extended relations. So many new names to remember, and all with such varying prosodies. Pax. Zahara. Shiloh. Vivienne. So many surly uncles making everyone feel awkward.

Assuming your "wife" (yeah, okay James Haven, I know you don't have a wife, but I'll play along) doesn't go for that line of reasoning, you'll probably just have to suck it up and go. (If you are absolutely, morally against what you have deemed outré displays of religion at the airport, well, that is a fun fight for you and your wife to have later. Maybe in the car on the way to the airport.)

If it's really important to your wife and her family, though, dedicating an hour of your weekend to welcoming your nephew to his adoptive country is a pretty minor inconvenience. Plus, you'll get to have so much fun at the airport. Eat at a limited-menu McDonald's express. Quiz yourself on TSA safety regulations. Visit the Sunglass Hut.

If you and when you do end up going, instead of focusing on how freaked out the kid might be when his giant new family descends on him, think of how grateful he'll be to have at least one adult there who seems pretty normal and relaxed.

Since he's a teenager, make a point of treating him like an adult. Ask him a question about taxes. Do NOT use this time to prank him with a classic "In America, we do X" gag. This kid does not need to be rolling on MDMA the first time he takes a limo ride with Brad and Ang.

If you're worried you won't know how to act around him, don't fret. You probably won't be called upon to do much other than generally appear friendly and not fight him. (Do NOT fight him, unless you feel he is invading your personal space.)

After you've warmly welcomed to America, you and your "wife" (you're killing me, James – you're killing me!) can head home and bide your time until the holidays, when you and he can reconvene over snacks and dips and talk about whether he has a girlfriend or is on drugs.

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