Friday, October 20, 2006

Bad manners

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's bad manners. And laziness. And sprouts. Okay, three things. Now, I know that makes me sound like someone who reads the Daily Express (the manners bit, not the sprouts bit, although perhaps the fact that they come from Brussels counts against them in the Express's reckoning). It's also a fairly broad statement, and one that would probably not stand up to close scrutiny. So I should specify that I'm purely talking in the context of a train here.

Yesterday evening, I boarded the train at Kings Cross and found one of the few available seats by the window halfway down the carriage. To get to it, I had to manoevre my way past an open tray upon which were placed an empty Evian bottle, a half finished carton of carrot sticks with some kind of dip, and a half-finished bar of chocolate. As is often the case in these situations, I was clearly not the first person to happen upon this seat, but I was the first to lay claim to it. It is (yet) another curious idiosyncrasy common to many seasoned commuters: where an unoccupied seat next to a passenger who is already seated is obscured by some object (a newspaper, for example) newcomers take great pleasure in making as much fuss as possible about getting the seat cleared (if the offending item does not belong to the passenger who is already seated, responsibility for moving said item is unclear, and should be decided upon by some random game of chance such as a coin toss). If, on the other hand, there are two unoccupied seats together, one of which is occupied by a newspaper, a magazine, or, as in this case, discarded packaging, no one will go near it.

So I took my seat, cautiously squeezing myself between the open tray and the seat, making absolutely sure I didn't touch anything, and sat myself down by the window. A few strange looks from people aside, nothing untoward happened, although after a few minutes I did become uncomfortably aware that there were now no other spare seats in the carriage, and that if someone else did get on the train and try to sit down, they would no doubt assume that the half-finished snacks were mine and ask me, in that tremendously holier-than-thou way perfected by commuters in London, to shift them.

Minutes passed, no one else did board the train, and eventually, we pulled out of King Cross. No one has returned to the claim the offending snacks, and I knew that as soon as we reached Finsbury Park there would be an influx of passengers and the seat would be required. I sat tight for a minute or two, hoping that the owner was just having a particularly lengthy visit to the loo or something (very high in fibre, those carrot sticks), but as we slowed outside Finsbury Park, I gingerly picked up each item in turn, put them in the bin next to the seat. NEXT TO THE SEAT, mark you. I mean, how hard can it be to put your rubbish in the bin next to the seat?

Muttering darkly to myself about the state of the modern commuter, I took out my broadsheet, and lowered the tray on the seat in front of me, the better to be able to read it wihout getting myself into the type of contortions that lead to injury. To my horror, the sellophane lid from the dip that came with the carrot sticks had been shoved inside the tray by the previous incumbent, so that it was now stuck to the back of the seat in front, with sticky pink mucus smeared over the tray itself. In disgust, I shut the tray (after putting the sellophane in the bin NEXT TO THE SEAT) and resigned myself to pulling some underused muscle as I read my paper.

Now I think I'm quite a tolerant person, and most of the more belligerent aspects of commuting behaviour I can shrug off, even smile at. But this kind of thing really (if you'll pardon the expression) pisses me off. I mean, what kind of a person do you have to be to deliberately vandalise not one but TWO seats on a train, when there's bin RIGHT NEXT TO YOU? If the person responsible is reading this, you really should be ashamed of yourself.


At 1:42 PM GMT , Blogger Rish said...

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

In the case of people who leave their bag on the seat next to them, I wonder why those who are standing seem so reluctant to ask if "someone is sitting there?". I have to confess that sometimes I don't even ask, and just sidle along into the seat until the owner of the bag gets the message and moves it.

I hate to stoop to other peoples' levels, but sometimes you just don't have the energy...


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