So here's the scene; last Friday I climbed onto a packed bus bound for work. I found a space about halfway down and hung like a spider monkey from one of the rubber straps. Every bump and pot hole the bus rides over sent waves of pain through my chest. A third of the way through the trip we stopped outside Wellington High and most of the teenagers piled off and a single seat opened up just to my right. There were a handful of other commuters of a variety of ages and sexes also doing their PG Tips impression so I, of course, was paralyzed with levels of guilt and indecision usually only seen in a Woody Allen film*.
If I take the seat then everyone else on the bus thinks I'm a tool for denying the more outwardly deserving passengers a respite from standing. If I remain standing I have another 20 minutes on the bus that suspension forgot before I get to work.
This demonstrates once again why society needs some universal signs to help explain one's actions to strangers. Want to wear a "McCain/Palin '08" T-shirt without everyone suspecting you're a evolution-denying Republican? A simple irony hat (in my mind it's a fez) would reassure passers-by and co-workers that you weren't on your way to a Tea Party.
Do you drive around in an SUV and feel the nagging finger of environmentalists? Application of the green, "I do a lot of conservation work that necessitates an off-road vehicle" bumper sticker will avoid having the Chelsea/Ponsonby Tractor tag applied to your car.
This lack of societal iconography resulted in me standing for another 10 minutes until enough spaces became vacant to make it clear that I wasn't a wanker. If I'd been wearing a "I've got an injury/illness with few external symptoms" badge, I could have taken a seat with impunity.
*one of the good early ones like Manhattan or Manhattan Murder Mystery