Future Voices: The unwritten rules of public transport

PUBLISHED: 09:00 22 November 2016

First buses at work on Castle Meadow, Norwich
Photo by Simon Finlay.

First buses at work on Castle Meadow, Norwich Photo by Simon Finlay.

There seems to be an unwritten rule of public transport etiquette - if other seats are available you should not, under any circumstance, sit next to someone else. Why is this?

There’s no explanation I can personally think of other than wanting your space to stay personal. It must be a British thing, we like to have an arm’s length between us in conversation rather than in other countries where they like to be up close in a way to make sure some kind of intimate connection is made, during every conversation.

The lengths the human race go to in order to avoid interaction with a stranger, who they have decided they want nothing to do with after only looking at them for a few seconds, are incredible. Here are some examples I have found and what I think of them:

• ‘Avoid eye contact with other people.’ Not obvious at all!

• ‘Lean against the window and stretch out your legs.’ Very comfortable for the next person on your seat.

• ‘Place a large bag on the empty seat.’ Because not everybody does this.

• ‘Sit on the aisle seat and turn on your iPod so you can pretend you can’t hear people asking for the window seat.’ One of the better options.

• ‘Look out the window with a blank stare to look crazy.’ Although this is a genuine answer, I am unsure anybody has ever tried this and I do not recommend.

• ‘Pretend to be asleep.’ Or just go to sleep?

• If all else fails, ‘lie and say the seat has been taken by someone else.’ This is morally wrong, nothing short of weird, especially when you are the only person on there.

I hope no one now feels self-conscious about people doing everything in their way to avoid your company, you probably do it too without realising!

Max Tofts, 16, Wymondham High School Academy

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