Over the past year, I’ve had to catch trains to and from work every day. In that time, I’ve learnt that the thriving mass of humanity known as "commuters" don’t actually practice great train etiquette. In fact, a huge percentage don’t practice any train etiquette at all. It’s time to change that.
There are so many ways to make the daily trip to and from work a peaceful experience. If we, as a species, can’t work out how to make the commute to work enjoyable for everyone, or at the very least bearable, we’re doomed. I’m telling you, there's dark times ahead. Forget climate change, forget nuclear war, it’s the public transport system that will end us all.
From boarding to alighting, here are the steps you can take to maintain Great Train Etiquette.
#1 WAIT TO BOARD
Trains work just like bowels. They need to be emptied before they can be filled.
Do not try and get on a train that has just pulled into the station and opened its doors. Particularly in peak hour, there are so many people that first need to get off the train before you can get in. Allow them to do so by moving to the side of the platform and lining up where the door opens. People currently on the train will be able to depart, which will mean there’s extra room inside the train for you to take up.
It’s a simple concept backed up by the basic laws of physics. Matter takes up space. More matter cannot take up the same space until the previous matter is no longer in that space. Don’t fight physics.
#2 FILE INSIDE
One of the critical steps as soon as you are inside a train carriage is that you move away from the doors, if you can. These points serve as entry and exit points for fellow passengers and thus are high traffic areas. Moving deeper into the carriage will mean that more people can get on without struggling past you or hitting you with their bags or stepping on your toes. You don’t want your toes to be stepped on, do you?
A lot of people are averse to standing in the aisle and for good reason. In theory, the deeper that you go, the harder it will be to get out of the train. But if you change your behaviours about alighting at a station with the next rule, then we can all go as deep as we want and still get out of the train with minimal fuss.
#3 THE IN-AND-OUT RULE
Trains can get so busy that you may not even be able to breathe, let alone move around the carriage. I get that. Of course, if this is the case, it makes it very difficult for people to get off the train. But there’s such an easy fix. When a train gets to the station you should move from the inside of the carriage to the outside to allow other passengers to exit. This will mean that you are at the front of the queue to get back into the train, which means that you won’t ‘lose your spot’, you’ll actually improve it!
#4 EVERYBODY WANTS A SEAT
As a general rule, everybody that gets onto a train wants to sit down. It’s more comfortable and it’s much easier to look at your smartphone when you’re not constantly worried about falling over. The first rule here is obvious: if you’re perfectly capable of standing and someone else clearly isn’t then it’s time to give up your seat. Just do it. Put that positive energy out into the world. People with disabilities, pregnant women, the elderly – these are all people that deserve to have a good sit down on a busy train.
General DON’Ts in terms of seating:
Don’t put your bag on the seat – as an unthinking, unfeeling piece of woven material, it is completely okay if you put it on the ground. It won’t hate you.
Don’t put your feet on the seat – feet and shoes are in constant contact with the ground, which is in constant contact with other people’s feet and shoes. It’s just gross.
Don’t leave the middle seat empty – particularly important during peak hour, leaving the middle seat empty should make you feel bad.
Don’t make someone climb over you when you can easily slide across and fill the space. The extra half-a-metre won’t hurt you.
Don’t sit on things that aren’t seats, like stairs or the floor.
#5 DO NOT PLAY MUSIC WITHOUT HEADPHONES
It’s actually kind of sad that I have to physically exert the energy and write those words out because it should be absolutely obvious why this is taboo. The first thing: I don’t care about your ‘Sandstorm’ remix. The second thing: Even if I did care about your ‘Sandstorm’ remix, I don’t want to hear it at the beginning of the day when I haven’t really woken up yet OR the end of the day, when I feel utterly devoid of life. Please keep your music firmly planted in your own earholes. There’s plenty of cheap, decent headphones to invest in.