When I was a teenager my step-dad and I would have blazing rows about household chores. (Actually, we wouldn’t have rows as such as that suggests I’d argue back. In fact, he’d rant and I’d cry. Because that’s my auto-response to anger or frustration: the waterworks.) The argument would circle around something I hadn’t done to help – the washing up, the hoovering, unloading the dishwasher – which I would less-than-calmly point out I’d never been asked to do to help, and he would less-than-calmly explain that no-one should have to ask me, I should do things without being asked. One of his oft-repeated words was “proactivity” – a virtue I never possessed.
At the wrath of Pete I learned proactivity. These days it frequently pops up on work appraisals as one of my strengths, so I guess I should be grateful…
On the train this morning two businessmen were sat at one of the table seats. The train, as per usual, wasn’t too packed when we left Leamington, leaving plenty of double airline seats free, should they have wanted to sit together, and very few reservations were in place. In fact, the only reservations I saw in the whole carriage were for the table seat they chose to sit at.
At Banbury a family got on – Mum, Dad each carrying a small child (pre-school/early years). They approached the seats and explained that they had a reservation. The businessmen looked slightly perturbed. Neither made a move to unplug their laptops, and seeing this, Mum hastily added “It’s ok, there’s plenty of seats – you stay where you are.” Dad took a seat across the aisle with sleeping tot on his knee. One of the businessmen looked smug. The other, in a whiny, Brummy voice, said:
“Oh, are you sure? I mean, we haven’t got kids with us – we could move?”
I think this annoyed me more than the outright rudeness of the smug one. Because if he had the slightest intention of moving he would have started to shift in his seat, or unplug his laptop – apologised, even. He would have shown some degree of proactivity instead of dumping all responsibility for either letting them be or making them move to the mum. Who by this point clearly just wanted to sit down with her stirring child.
I mentioned last week the young man on the bus who is out of his seat and halfway down the aisle before a woman with a buggy has even started to struggle. The contrast is extraordinary.