Tuesday, 26 August 2008

All you wanted to know about seating

Well, it’s been a little while. I’m definitely part of the “If you don’t have anything to say” school of thought, which I realise might be an adaptation of the conventional philosophy, but you get the gist.

There have been very few mental passengers, the Natives are still strangely absent (like the calm before the storm) and no engineering works to damp the general spirits.

Last Friday a group of what I thought were girls but actually turned out to be boys, jumped on the train at Cambridge. After five minutes of general noise, one of them remarked on the fact that there are people trying to read. At which point, Captain Bigmouth here pipes up with “TRYING to read...” After that a stabbing ensued – significant as the first one outside of London and to someone over the age of twenty-five. Not really – this isn’t the front page of The Sun, after all. We had a light hearted conversation about what to do about the one extremely loud male foetus. I suggested gagging. His friend elaborated by throwing “with a sweaty sock” into the mix. Added to that, they got off at Ely, a mere fifteen minutes from Cambridge. Bless ‘em, they were good boys – just a bit sugared up from their trip away from the ‘rents.

I have a lot of time to think, on the train. I generally fill up the time with reading and/or music (depending on the background noise and the fullness of my own brain) but it’s impossible to escape the idle thoughts. Such as – when a conductor checks your ticket for the second time in an hour long journey, why do we put up with it? Isn’t it rather like patronising the cinema only to find the lights up half way through the feature while they check you’re allowed to be in there? I realise it’s hard to keep track of everyone especially if they move around, but I always thought it was a vital part of the conductor-y type job. That and serving tea at 100mph without spilling a drop. Amazing.

You know what else is amazing? The tables on trains. How can it be that the train lurches around corners and topples passengers onto other passengers, but your full, large coffee doesn’t even break a sweat? I don’t understand. I can only conclude it must be magic – something to do with lightweight velcro. They could probably stand to make the carpet out of the same material, though.

I did have a brilliant run in with Grumpy Lady today though (hereinafter referred to as GL) who I have sat next to before, or rather, she sat next to me. You know who she is. She’s the person who makes you feel like you should apologise for not curtseying when she enters the train. As if you should throw yourself prostrate on the ground so as not to sully her eyes with having to look at your face. She also has a hell of a lot of Stuff. As in, plastic bags, laptop bags, handbags... Basically a bit of a nightmare ot sit next to.

There I was, on a half empty train, enjoying my book and whiling away the hour with odd thoughts, when the train stopped at Brandon. Before I knew it, a terse voice barked “Excuse me” while a veritable holiday’s worth of crap got dumped at my feet. Bewildered, I raised my head and pointed a slightly trembling finger to one of the empty pairs of seats nearby. When I say nearby, I mean actually directly behind her. “That one’s free” I offered, “If you don’t want to sit next to anyone”. She muttered something unintelligbile apart from the tone and sat down bad temperedly at the empty seat. The one in the aisle, so no-one else could sit down next to her. Seriously. Why would you WANT to sit next to someone when you didn’t have to? This was made all the more relevant when she spent the next half hour applying make up. After that, she compounded my hatred of trainers with a suit by changing her racy red stilletos for fugly black trainers.

Rather like the urinal etiquette, I believe there is a strict code of train seat etiquette which could perhaps be applied to any seated even i.e. cinema, gig etc.

The idiot's guide to seating etiquette.

  1. Do not sit directly beside, in front of or behind someone unless there is absolutely no room. If this means walking the length of the train/stadium, so be it.
  2. When you wish to sit down at a seat which already has an occupant (but enough room for you and/or companions) you ask the occupant if you may sit down. This may only be a perfunctory gesture, but it counts for a lot and will save your elbows on the ensuing journey.
  3. Armrests. There is one word to remember when dealing with an armrest hogger – SHARE. Very often those who sit next to the window do not have an armest – something nice to consider if you happen to be sitting on an aisle seat.
  4. Tables. There are definite pros and cons to sitting at a table if you are a lone traveller. The extra room is a bit of a con really, as you share about the same amount of space with three other people, as you would have with a dual seater.

My guideline is basically to esnure your feet do not encroach past the half-way line on the table. However, please remember that some people have longer legs and may need more room.

  1. The final rule, the last but not least, if you will – remember the person next to you is actually a human being. If you don’t have enough elbow room and want to get the pointy bits out or fancy playing mean footsie because your toes are a bit squished and you’ve spotted they’re wearing sandals – ask yourself how happy you’d be if they did it to you. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been elbowed, trodden on or barked at just because someone else isn’t 100% comfortable. Believe me, I give as good as I get. But I’m so much more relaxed if someone asks me nicely to move my feet or my bag.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. In fact, if you think of any more that should be added – feel free.

Ooh, this is the first of my four day weeks. Bank holidays are pretty cool, and I have another Monday off next week,. For reasons unknown.

Book recommendation of the week: “twilight” by Stephanie Meyer. I’m a sucker (ha, no second pun intended) for teen vampire books. I definitely blame Buffy and all her scooby gang. If you haven’t heard of “twilight”, it’s about a girl called Bella who moves to a small town to live with her dad, and encounters some kids at the high school who... are a little bit different. Beautiful, dangerous and exciting – can Bella handle the pace?

I know, I know. I should write the blurb on the back of books. Before I’m thirty I want to realise my ambition of writing a Millls & Boon novel. Of course, it will probably be about high school vamps.

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