About three years ago I was traveling on a bus to a very religious city. I was sitting in the third row and there were still quite a few seats empty right around where I was sitting. The man turned his head away and said to me, "The first three rows are for men only." I said, "Ok, I'll move," and I moved one row back. As the bus continued on the route, it got more and more full. I gave my seat to a pregnant woman, and there were no other seats left besides...a few in the first three rows. So I went and sat back down and lo and behold, nobody said anything to me.
Fast forward to last week. I got on a bus and there were many charedi [ultra-religious] men sitting in the two-seat sets, each with the other seat next to them empty. So I picked one and sat down; the man sitting next to me got up and moved.
Before I sat down I had mixed feelings-- Should I sit down next to one of these men? Which one? Are they going to move? If they do, it's because of me-- is that right? Not every charedi man gets up. I can't sit farther back, I get nauseous. Should I stand? But there are seats.
On one hand, I sat down and the man moved. On the other hand, there were plenty of other seats available; they just happened to be next to someone else. The man had at least three other seats that were available.
It's always a dilemma when I sit down next to a charedi man. I find that the emptier the bus, the more likely they are to move. On a packed bus there are either no seats available, or the man stays put. I never know what to do, but I know that I'm not going to stand when there are empty seats available because someone doesn't want to sit next to me. If a smelly person sits next to me, I can move-- did that person make me move? No, but I don't feel comfortable sitting next to him/her, so I move. I feel the same about this-- if someone doesn't want to sit next to me, he/she doesn't have to, but I have a right to sit where I want on public buses.