Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Common courtesy decreasingly common

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Desirae Stewart admits she didn't conduct a scientific survey before declaring chivalry dead in Winnipeg. The 27-year-old Fort Richmond woman says she based her conclusion strictly on personal experience.

Stewart is eight months pregnant. She takes Winnipeg Transit from her home in Fort Richmond to her job at Great-West Life. Twice a day, she spends about an hour on the bus, usually standing. In the time since her expanding belly became obvious to the untrained eye, she has never been offered a seat on the bus.

"I was surprised," says the Fort Richmond mom-to-be. "I thought it would be different."

Stewart stresses she's not confusing pregnancy with infirmity. She didn't expect special consideration early on. She's a healthy young woman. But now that's she's reached the large and somewhat unwieldy stage, she thought she might catch a break on her daily commute. The ride can get rocky and her balance isn't what it used to be.

"I've taken the bus countless times over the years," she says. "I'm always giving up my seat for older people or people with lots of bags or people with small children. That's just how I was raised."

Stewart says she grew up with a dad and brothers who believed in opening doors and taking care of the heavy lifting. Her husband, Eric, has the same mindset.

Again, she doesn't think she deserved special treatment in the early stages of her pregnancy. She's just stunned no able-bodied person would offer her a seat during her hour-long ride to and from work.

I'm not sure she should be surprised. We're raising a generation that interacts with technology, not people. I'm sure half the people on her bus route have never really registered her presence.

The others? Maybe Mom and Dad forgot to tell them there are basic rules for living. You help the elderly and the sick. You watch out for the young. You understand you are not alone in this world.

If you're unclear about all this, ask a scout. Scouts Canada designated seven days this past April as Good Turn Week. They asked Canadians to join them in doing something nice for neighbours, their community, friends or family members.

"We invite Canadians to emulate scouting's virtues and make the effort to deliver a simple act of kindness," the group said in a press release.

"It's really not difficult to do, and our goal is simple: to foster a stronger sense of community and friendship in Canada through consideration for and assistance of others."

The "simple act of kindness" could be standing up and giving a very pregnant woman a seat on the bus.

Desirae Stewart says she's discussed her peeve with friends and co-workers. Some said men find themselves in a tough spot: Do you offer a woman your seat if you're afraid she might take offence?

"I understand that," Stewart says, "but I don't think anyone would be insulted by the offer. If you don't need a seat, you can just shake your head."

It is not the job of Winnipeg Transit drivers to act as the courtesy police. There are special seats at the front of every bus designated for seniors, people with mobility problems and parents with strollers. Pregnant women are not automatically entitled to one of those seats.

There is no transit policy requiring someone to yield their seat to another passenger who may have difficulty standing due to a medical condition or some other problem. That's where common courtesy comes in. Stewart says it's not that common anymore. If a rider asks the driver for help getting a seat, passengers will be requested to voluntarily give up their seats. There's no obligation.

Not every passenger who looks able-bodied is, so don't glare at the guy with a heart condition because you think he's a lump.

Desirae Stewart's baby is due June 16, so her bus-riding issue will soon end. It's the rest of us, those who live in a world that sometimes feels like survival of the fittest, who have a longer-term concern.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 16, 2012 A7

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she wrote for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business -- though she joked she'd get around to them some day.

Sadly, that day will never come. Lindor died in October 2014 after a 15-month battle with brain cancer.

Lindor received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.

Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and was awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

Reynolds was 56. She is survived by a husband, mother, a daughter and son-in-law and three stepdaughters.

The Free Press has published an ebook celebrating the best of Lindor's work. It's available in the Winnipeg Free Press Store; all proceeds will be donated through our Miracle on Mountain charity to the Christmas Cheer Board.


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