Through my frequent travels on the colectivos of Río Cuarto, I've been privy to many opportunities for people watching, and I always try to be on the lookout for behavior which differentiates the riocuartenses from the Americans I'm used to. One thing I've noticed relates to respect, and it functions like clockwork: regardless of time, place, destination, or occupancy of the bus, an Argentine male will always give up his seat to a woman with a child, and elderly person, a disabled person, or a younger woman. I would like to say that this degree of respect for your fellow man (or lady, as the case may be) is equally existent in the United States, but it hasn't been my experience that people automatically offer their seats to these groups of people. Occasionally, begrudgingly even, a person will give up a seat to an old woman on a subway, but never have I seen it work so consistently. I was impressed.
Shortly after deciding to write this post, I noticed that an elderly man (who was sitting in a seat in the front that was previously vacated for him) was getting off the bus. The bus driver got up and helped the man down the steps without a second thought. It made me reflect on my own culture and our attitudes toward the elderly. I feel like we generally try to hide our elderly, be it in nursing homes or at home, and we don't like to think about what it will be like when we get older. Perhaps senescece is treated this way because we're afraid of getting older; maybe we associate it with weakness. Why? I don't know, and I don't feel like getting philosophical. What I will say is that I was impressed by the respect that Argentines have for one another and, what is more, that this respect seems to be deep-seated in their personality.