... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Monday 2 March 2015

An observation

An observation made, admittedly, when I regularly used a commuter train rather than one where most of the seats are reserved, but it came back to me today and is no doubt still true.

Many people will sit in a window seat and deposit their bags, coats etc on the aisle seat next to them.

I prefer an aisle seat, and make a point of not depositing my worldly goods on the seat next to me.

Once each pair of seats has been filled in this way, the next person to get on the train has to find a vacant seat. Nine times out of ten, they will ask me to move so that they can get into the empty seat next to me, rather than ask someone else to move their bags.

Is this because most people have such a desperate desire for a window seat? Or is it, as I suspect, because it's somehow easier to ask someone to get up so that you can sit on an obviously empty seat, than risk appearing critical by asking someone to move their bags?


  1. There's a PhD in sociology/psychology to be got out of that.

  2. Bags left on a seat probably belong to the person sitting next to them but might just belong to someone who has gone to the buffet or toilet or somewhere. An "empty" seat is more obviously unoccupied.

    Although some people do genuinely prefer aisle seats I think there are others who sit in the aisle seat in the hope and expectation that no one will then sit next to them. I prefer a window seat myself - although only if you can actually see out of the window - and make a point of asking if I can have the window seat rather than taking a free aisle place. Most people are happy to move, but sometimes I get the impression that the person I've asked to move feels I'm infringing on his or her personal space.
    The same thing happens on buses. There is definitely an etiquette that ensures that all double seats must have at least one passenger in them before a second person can take the other seat and also that single travellers should take a seat next to a person of the same sex wherever possible. A passenger occupying the aisle seat next to a stranger will usually move to a window seat if one becomes free. I've also noticed that many young people will stand rather than ask the occupant of an aisle seat to move so that they can sit down. Fascinating!

  3. I liked what someone said on telly (can't remember who), but apparently Derren Brown told him that the best way to preserve an empty seat next to you on a train is this: When a person looking for a seat enters the area, look them in the eye and smile and pat the empty seat next to you. They'll sit elsewhere.

  4. I'm the awkward sod who likes to make people move their bags & free up the seat, rather than take a seat a less confrontational person can take... ;-)

    Neil - I think it was Stephen Fry who said that. So someone sitting in the seat on a train next to me, told me, anyway. ;-)