How rude are New Yorkers? Putting pregnancy politeness to the test

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NEW YORK CITY (PIX11) — From TV commercials showing how a pregnant New Yorker feels when it comes to getting a seat on public transportation by taking out a toy blow-up hammer and knocking a guy over the head to give up his seat, to a YouTube video showing two women letting the fists fly over a seat, it can be frustrating to be expecting in New York City.

One mama-to-be outside her OBGYN’s office spells it out: “For me, it’s ridiculous because I think they should.”

Pregnant women have long complained getting a seat on the subway is one of the true tests of New Yorkers’ manners.  And lately the headlines have screamed about how arrogant, rude and boorish New Yorkers are, from the LA Times, to Business Insider to Travel + Leisure Magazine.

I wanted to find out, are we or aren’t we as rude as our reputation?

PIX11’s Kirstin Cole goes undercover as a very pregnant subway rider to see how New Yorkers react to a mom-to-be in desperate need of a seat.

So, I became “pregnant” with a little help from a costume store and a brunette wig.

With a bun or two in the oven, I ventured into the subway during morning rush hour.

Forget seats, I couldn’t even find elbow room.

For the entire month of May, PIX11 is creating a “Living Lab,” seeing how New Yorkers react in certain situations that test them.

I pushed my way toward the passengers lucky enough to get a seat on the train. Women are quick to notice my very large belly and give up a seat. Another man jumps up, and only as we exit the car do I see he needed it more than me with the difficulty he has walking.  So far, New Yorkers are only too eager to help.

And just when I think New York rudeness is mere myth, I find myself standing next to a man sitting comfortably in a seat that’s labelled for handicapped riders – and he’s playing possum.  My multiple undercover cameras caught how he looks at me then looks away. He looks again at my swollen belly, and drops eye contact.  Then he glances a third time, but pretends not to see, presumably so he won’t have to stand.

Another train car and it’s a man sitting next to a child and her mother. He catches my belly and looks away and then those undercover cameras catch him trying to avoid looking at all. A mother two seats down chastises her son across the way into making room for me and, at least, I sit.

PIX11’s Kirstin Cole goes undercover as a very pregnant subway rider to see how New Yorkers react to a mom-to-be in desperate need of a seat.

Then we pile on the challenge: dragging an oversize bag up and down the subway stairs at stops along the East Side from 96th Street to Union Square Station.

Many commuters just rush past me and my awkward luggage. They don’t seem to notice I’m pregnant and struggling.  But along the way, I did find people willing to help.

Jose is the first. Tyrone grabs it at the next stop. But mostly, I’m left to struggle.

Now, for the big test: taxis.

So will New Yorkers give up their coveted cab to a pregnant woman  even when she’s clearly not there first?

The first time I try, a man in a well-tailored suit hands it over even though I get there after him.

Another man simply states, “Look at you.  You need it more than I do.”

But now I move on to a woman, using the same tactic of squeezing in just after she’s nabbed the cab.  And this time, she isn’t going for it.

As I waddle up, I weakly tell her “I was waiting for a cab.”

She points out her bag is in the trunk, and asks where I’m going.  I let her know I’m headed downtown for an appointment.

“My bag is already in the trunk.  But good luck.” she said again, closing the door and giving a parting glance to my baby-to-be.

All in all, New York, you get about a “B.”

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