Can I Put My Bag on a Subway Seat, Instead of Sitting?

The offending bag, with a Blackberry next to it for scale

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  Two months ago, I injured my back, making it hard for me to sit.   So I stand on the subway train -- but if it's not too crowded, I put my bag on the seat to ease the strain of carrying a large purse, as well as to avoid bending up and down to put it on the floor.  If I put in on the floor, I have to move it almost every stop, because it's kind of long (good for carrying radio recording equipment.)  And that also stresses my back, so if it's not too crowded, I will put my bag on the seat, and stand beside it.

Today, when I boarded the train, it was pretty empty. So I put my bag on the seat, stood beside it, and proceeded to read the coverage of Japan on the NY Times op-ed page.  About three stops later, a passenger got on -- a young, seemingly able-bodied man, and pointed to my bag, saying "your bag."  I thought he was pointing out that the zipper was about 3 inches open, so I closed it.

Then, he said, "Move your bag!" rather brusquely.  I explained it was there because I can't sit, and it was taking up the seat instead of me.   He started to scream: "You're really being an asshole!"

I was uncharacteristically speechless.

A few seats down, a woman in a white coat joined in and said:  "Can't you see she's injured?"  He continued to yell.   She got up.  "Take my seat, then.  It's too early in the morning.  Take my seat."  Which he did.

A few stops later, someone got off, and then someone got on, my bag was still on the seat.  "Don't worry," the woman said.  "There's room for me and your bag."

But what do you think?  Is it okay for me to put my bag on the seat instead of, um, my posterior?