Vancouver Province column: In our quest for self-empowerment, are we waging war on everyone else?

Last week, while travelling on a crowded bus in downtown Vancouver, I witnessed a pregnant woman standing near the front of the vehicle, struggling to keep her balance.

Sadly, the able-bodied riders in the so-called courtesy seats ignored her plight and kept on enjoying their magazines and music-players.

It was another classic case of rudeness rearing its ugly head in our West Coast metropolis.

As she was pushed along toward the back of the bus, I was at least able to offer up my own seat — but not before this mother-in-waiting had endured the jolts and bumps of the morning commute on her own two feet.

It’s not the first time I’ve witnessed such indifference on public transit. I’ve seen elderly folks and mothers with small children fending for themselves, while the commuting drones watch on from the comfort of their padded benches.

In a recent issue of The Buzzer, TransLink’s newsletter, readers had to be reminded to be extra courteous to the elderly, disabled and those with mobility issues.

Now really, should our transit bosses have to prod folks to show some basic human decency when they’re riding the bus? Apparently so.

This past Halloween, public crudeness took on a disturbing new meaning when a driver was assaulted by costumed teenage girls and her million-dollar trolley bus was subsequently torched.

Public transit isn’t the only place where respect for others has gone right out the window. Our roads and highways appear to be a breeding ground for bad behaviour.

Case in point: The many solo drivers who flout the law and travel in the high-occupancy vehicle lane. Then, there are the queue-jumpers near our many bridges, who happily bypass congestion in the side lane and weasel their way into traffic at the last possible moment. Is their time really more important than everyone else’s? The lack of civility that festers on our transportation corridors speaks to a biggerproblemBad manners are everywhere.

The litterbugs who were supposedly shamed away in the 1970s are back in a big way 30 years on. They’re still dropping cigarette butts on the sidewalk and tossing their empty coffee cups to the curb as well.

Try taking little kids to a playground these days, and you’ll know what I mean. Any enjoyment of the slides and swings hinges upon avoiding fast-food litter, dog waste and shards of broken glass.

All of this is a sad reflection of our society. On our TV channels and book shelves, there’s no shortage of titles devoted to personal improvement and assertiveness training. But in our quest to empower the self, we’ve seemingly declared war on everyone else.

Not that Metro Vancouver is alone in dealing with this downturn of decency in our public spaces.Rudeness is on the upswing across the country. In fact, Reader’s Digest somehow gave Vancouver the nod as being Canada’s second-most polite city.

In other words, we are near-best among a rather sorry lot.


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