I’ve commuted by train for quite some time.
It’s clear that many people will use a range of strategies to reduce the chance that some random stranger will have the audacity to sit beside them. It’s hard to identify a specific plan that works, but I reckon you can consider three elements: position, situation and accessories.
This is an obvious starting point, but on its own provides very limited success. Sit in the aisle seat, leaving the window seat free. Only really works when the carriage has plenty of other seats available. As the carriage begins to fill, you will need to combine this with a situation and/or an accessory – or multiple permutations, depending on the circumstances of your journey.
Create, in the mind of a potential personal space invader, the possibility that sitting beside you is likely to be an uncomfortable experience, or that disrupting you will cause a fuss:
act as if you are asleep, but you definitely need to be in the aisle seat for this to have any chance of success, unless you introduce snoring into the equation;
belch loudly (a few glugs of a fizzy drink is a handy tip);
sing along to the music you are listening to through your headphones (if the volume can be turned up so everyone can hear the boom-tish, that’s a bonus);
practice, and then deploy an annoying, boorish laugh;
This is where your creativity can run wild. Think about the wide range of props that can be introduced into the situation. Here’s a few to get you started:
leave an item resting in the seat beside you: handbag, sports bag, shopping, books;
as the doors open and passengers begin entering the carriage, talk (loudly) into your mobile phone – you don’t need to even call anyone, just pretend;
wear an old t-shirt with an obvious egg stain dribbled down the front, remembering to have a clean shirt on standby for when you get to your place of work;
spread your makeup across the whole table, whilst pulling faces as you apply it (not all fellas will attempt this);
scatter a generous supply of crumpled paper hankies on the table in front of you, and have one in your hand, pressed against your nose, as you sniffle into it.
Sometimes, though, a plan comes together when you least expect it. A good friend of mine recently slipped as he rushed to get to the train station, falling headlong into the verge along the path. He caught the train, found a seat and despite it being a busy commuter service nobody sat beside him. He only realised when he got to work that his visit to the verge had left his face semi-clattered in mud.
Of course, there is one foolproof tactic to make sure a stranger doesn’t park beside you. Travel with a friend.
As you move through life, are you letting people into your world, or using position, situation or accessories to keep them at bay? New friends bring new perspectives. You can never have too many friends. Proper ones, I mean, not those you just have on Facebook.
“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.” Dalai Lama