... 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.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The window seat and me

Train observations are obviously a great space filler, so here, in best social media tradition, are my favourite kinds of seats and the reason why. The train companies should love me; I want the least popular kind of seat - an airline style aisle seat, and I don't mind if I have my back to the engine and a Virgin-style windowless stretch of cabin side to boot. But I often don't get what my heart most desires, and someone else is probably losing out as a result.

At least when booking, you can specify an aisle seat. Now obviously, in an ideal world, one wants to undertake one's entire journey next to an empty seat. No jostling for elbow room on the armrest, no awkwardly asking if you can lower the armrest to put some semblance of a barrier between you and next door's flab/smelly anorak, and above all, no sniffing, coughing and spluttering of myriad viruses into your airspace. But if you have an aisle seat, at least you are not at risk of being trapped and compressed into the corner by some corpulent malodorous germ-ridden stranger. At least there is a possibility of escape, and you don't have to ask permission to go to the toilet.

When booking, you can specify a table seat. I never do. Unfortunately, you cannot specify a non-table seat. So at least half the time I find my seat involves me facing someone else, and getting my feet tangled with theirs, and either having to complain or silently seething about the hard shell wheelie suitcase they have put under the table. But with an airline seat, I can stick my feet under the one in front (whilst selfishly denying that pleasure to the person behind me by putting my bag under my seat). I have a little table, should I need one. And best of all, I don't have someone gawping at me for two hours.

Now, I know that as long as I'm on the right train, it doesn't really matter where I sit. But if I take a non-reserved seat, I'm potentially depriving someone else of it, because they won't sit in my, apparently reserved, one. I could offer to swap, but that involves too much human interaction, sometimes. Often, anyway, the whole carriage is reserved. (Can I just mention a really petty thing that annoys me? When people come down the carriage looking for C27A, and can only find C27. The A stands for Aisle and is otherwise meaningless. Why do the train companies insist on printing it on the ticket and confusing people?)

So, I don't feel sick with my back to the engine, I don't want to make conversation, and I don't want to look out of the window. All I ask is a decent light, and I'll have my nose in a book the whole way. That's what trains are for, and that's what books are for.


  1. Sarah,
    So it's you that's been sitting next to me all this time!

  2. "A" stands for airline (but don't ask me why railways have to call them after their competitors) not aisle.

    Putting the A also sends lots of people to coach A when they haven't read the ticket properly.

    1. No, it's definitely 'aisle', at least on the trains I use. I have my tickets from the last trip I made. One was a table and one was airline, but they're both marked 'A'. Mine are always A for aisle whether a table or an airline seat. Given that each seat has an individual number anyway, I wonder why they feel this further detail is necessary.

  3. I still don't think the A means aisle. under "What kind of seat has been reserved for me" confirms my experiences. "A" almost always means "Airline" but can be used where the matching facing and back have different numbers

    1. All I can say is that it never has in my experience of Virgin, East Midlands, or GNER (as was) trains. And my table seat ticket from my last journey bears an A just the same as all my others.

      But why have it at all?

  4. Interestingly on Crosscountry trains I recently bought Coach: C Seat: 28A which is a window seat on a table of four!