Grand Chain

18 December 2019 – All those decades ago, and only for a while, I was pretty nifty at square dancing. Practically every step has now left memory, but I still recall a few basics. Including “Grand Chain” — a sequence in which you leave your original position, weave your way among other participants, and end up back where you began.

I think of this, the other day, on a very crowded bus. Not for the first tine, either, because a Grand Chain often takes place on Vancouver public transit.

It is set off by a combination of (a), official signage …

and, (b), human kindness. (Though not always the full square-dance choreography: there’s no guarantee, not even the likelihood, that people will end up where they began.)

Signage reminds us that Vancouver busses are not only fully accessible, they reserve front-of-bus priority for certain categories of passenger.

Which means that I, all these decades later and all by myself, can be enough to trigger a Grand Chain of seat redistribution.

And so it is, this very crowded day.

  • I, visibly a Senior, pay my fare & slalom my way into the knot of youthful standees immediately past the driver.
  • Middle-Aged Lady smiles and stands up; I smile and sit down.
  • MIddle-Aged Lady in turn slaloms into the congested aisle.
  • Young Man smiles and stands up; she smiles and sits down.

Driver, next stop, calls out: “Stroller coming on!”

  • People vacate the side-facing front seats.
  • Stroller Mother smiles and locks in the stroller.

  • Now-Standing-People slalom along the aisle.
  • Middle-Aged Lady spots someone Now-Standing whom she judges older than she is; she once again smiles and stands up.
  • Somewhat-Older-Person smiles and sits down.

My stop!

  • I get up, smile at Middle-Aged Lady, and wave at my seat.
  • She smiles and sits down.

Grand Chain.

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  1. I love this. 🙂

  2. despite my age and silvery hair, I haven’t been offered a seat as yet, but I have offered one to females no longer young but not old and they always decline with a smile. I guess they look at the oldish bloke and deduce that he needs the seat more than they do — who knows?

    • I decided, even when leaving obviously ‘senior,’ that whenever offered a seat I’d take it, because I want to reward civic kindness & courtesy, not discourage it. And even if I felt fine, didn’t really need it, I could always stand up in turn for someone else. You know, writing this one, I felt as if I were writing one of your short stories! It really did happen as I described it, but I felt more conscious of story construction, instead of my usual just-bouncing-along.

  3. love this, square dancing reference very appropriate! HA I have on occassion reminded a few young, teenage (?) men and women to give up their seats, not for me, but for another senior or incumbered human, because I would have already done my part in the dance you describe. Poor dears are so addicted to their phones they just miss out sometimes.

  4. If only Brexit could work like this, or the impeachemnt, or countless other difficulties.

  5. Love your story and you are fortunate to have such an experience. Unfortunately, I find the seats are mostly occupied by young people focused on their devices who chose not to look up to see if anyone needs a seat. Alternatively, they are occupied by mothers and children who feel they also have a right to them (strollers excluded)

    • I’ve seen inconsderate & outright nasty behaviour on the bus system as well but mostly, here as in Toronto, I see people treating each other well., including across generational & cultural lines. It’s an encouraging sight, when daily we are reminded of so much ugliness in the world.

  6. Fantastic – the first post which has made me chuckle


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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

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