The better way

01Nov05

It is a scientifically established fact that people are selfish and stupid and lacking in common sense. And this is never so true as when they are traveling place to place. It may be truest of all when they use public transportation, for were they smarter, they might be able to afford private vehicles of their own. Whether by common sense and decency or by pure utilitarianism, certain rules of commuting should be self-evident. They are obviously not. The following is a list of some guidelines that I wrote down a while ago, posted today in a message board discussion on the subject, and now reproduce here for good measure. I do all this for the betterment of public transit. Read and obey.

  1. Do not sit while a pregnant, elderly, or otherwise infirm person is forced to stand if you yourself are able-bodied.
  2. Do not, if you are able-bodied, quickly slip into a seat that someone else is chivalrously vacating so that someone less able-bodied can sit.
  3. Do not sit in the aisle seat while leaving the window seat empty. Move over so people needn’t climb over you.
  4. Do not sit in the aisle seat while turned sideways into the aisle. Your legs are taking up room that could be inhabited by those forced to stand. Face forward.
  5. Do not stand overly close to a pole, hugging it tightly with your body. Other people may need to hold onto it for support and would like to do so without brushing their hands against your face, your breasts, or the rest of your body. Leave a decent distance.
  6. Do not monopolize a seat made for two people by filling half of it with your bag or your packages.
  7. Do not wear giant backpacks while on a bus, streetcar, or subway. It gives you twice the depth that you think you have. This often makes it difficult to walk by you, and when you turn around, you often hit people with your pack.
  8. Do not peel an apple with a sharp knife on a crowded subway where people are being jostled around. Show some common sense.
  9. Do not sit in separate seats from a companion or companions and shout back and forth. Do not force people to sit in your midst because your group is spreading itself among several benches, surrounding them. Even if you are young men, sit together. It does not make you gay.
  10. Do not shout, period.
  11. Do not curse or use offensive language in such a way that others are unavoidably forced to listen to you.
  12. Do not smoke anywhere on the public transit system. This includes bus shelters.
  13. Do not spit either.
  14. Do not litter. Unless it’s a newspaper, which is probably okay, because other people will gratefully pick it up and read it.
  15. Do not leave a newspaper behind that you’ve blown our nose on or anything like that.
  16. Do not get in people’s way on the escalator. Walk left, stand right. If there’s no one in the way, by all means, walk on the right side. But never stand on the left side.
  17. Do not swing your arms excessively when walking up stairs or an escalator. It’s crowded and you might hit someone in the face or groin.
  18. Do not enter a train before people have a chance to get off. But …
  19. Do not take so long getting off a train that people trying to board might not have a chance to do so. Be ready, and move quickly.
  20. Do not bolt headlong into a subway to catch it at the very last second and knock people who have also just boarded over in the process. But …
  21. Do not board a subway and then slow your pace to a crawl as you decide where to go. Other people may still be trying to board.
  22. Do not waver indecisively between two or more seats as you board. Someone behind you might want to grab one before all the other seats suddenly fill up. Pick one, and sit down immediately.
  23. Do not stand in the doorway of the subway while traveling from stop to stop, obstructing other passengers from getting on or off.
  24. Do not clump around the door area in a crowd if you can get to the middle of the train with a minimum of effort. Other people further down the line may be prevented from boarding at all if you do this, and it’s all the more infuriating when they can see that there’s space on the train but it’s simply not being used.
  25. Don’t deface the public transit system with graffiti.
  26. Don’t listen to music without headphones (as with a boombox), or with headphones jacked up to a volume audible to all around you as a tinny hum.
  27. Do not conduct loud and lengthy cell phone conversations.
  28. Do not panhandle.
  29. Do not emit a palpable body odor, whether it be strong perfume or sweat, or that awful kind of halitosis where your breath smells metallic, like you’ve been eating pennies or something.
  30. Do not put your feet up on the seat and monopolize an extra space. Especially don’t take off your shoes and socks when doing so.
  31. Do not throw your arm over the back of the seat, whether it be around your significant other or just for the hell of it, if it means you’re sticking your elbow into the place where someone wants to sit in the seat behind you.
  32. Do not make it difficult for others to get around you on a narrow subway platform.
  33. Do not lean your head against the window and leave an ugly grease stain from your oily skin or your gelled hair.
  34. Do not, unless unavoidable, get on the bus or streetcar without having your fare ready.
  35. Do not throw yourself or others in front of the subway. Find a way to kill yourself or others that does not massively inconvenience commuters.



11 Responses to “The better way”

  1. 1 James P. Wall

    All of those things are certainly annoying, but where’s the rule about not bringing your FIFTEEN SCREAMING CHILDREN on the train, and letting them RUN RAMPANT UP AND DOWN THE CARRIAGE, and not smacking them over the head when they STAND AND STARE AT OTHER PASSENGERS FOR WHAT SEEMS LIKE HOURS?

  2. 2 Dickolas Wang

    What about spittinginthefaceofChrist!? Is that okay?

  3. 3 Anonymous

    What about sitting next to a person when there are dozens of other empty seats just begging to be occupied? It’s really creepy. That happened to me once, and I thought for certain I was going to die. – Gloria

  4. 4 Peter Lynn

    James: You are right. I usually don’t run into this commuting to and from work, but you are right.Dickolas: You are also right. Spitting in the face of Christ is surprisingly okay! Gloria: You are the rightest of all! This happened to me twice just this morning — once on the subway and once on my bus. And to top things off, I was wearing a winter coat for the first time this year, so it made me even more claustrophobic. And I was still sniffly and self-conscious about wiping my nose constantly. I should have sneezed on the people sitting too close. And I should have put your rule on my original list. I’m sure there are room for at least 50 items on my list. It’s still a work in progress. Feel free to add suggestions.

  5. 5 Dickolas Wang

    Tonight on the bus back home, I plopped into one of those sideways benches and put my elbow up on the back of the forward-facing seat to my left, but then I thought of this post and decided that I shouldn’t.You’ve really made a difference in this world.Also, what is your policy on backpacks on seats if no one is sitting there? Suppose I heave it onto my lap when people are entering the bus and finding seats, but no one claims the seat next to me on account of my unappealingness. May I then put the bag back onto the seat with a clear conscience?

  6. 6 Anonymous

    Wow. Do you encounter all of that while commuting to work? You Canadians are so uncivilised.That said, someone was listening to some racket on the bus this morning, without using headphones. The situation was defused when a young man went up to him and very politely asked him to turn it down. He turned it off. Another victory for good manners!

  7. 7 Marlene

    You should add:If you are a man standing beside a woman who is sitting don’t lean your pelvic area into her face as you allow others to pass.This has happened to me twice and both times it was old, gross fat men who I don’t think had to put their penes that close to my face.

  8. 8 Anonymous

    Some anonymous man actually once brushed his pelvis against my shoulder; when I looked around, he had the grace to put out a hand to say “Whoa, sorry. Don’t bite it off now.”Little did he know I was way further into the camp of “Hey, penis! Where?”Question: Which is less awkward to thrust into someone’s face when you’re making room to pass: ass or genitals? Genitals are somewhat more sexual, but your ass is where the heart is. You know what I mean. – Gloria

  9. 9 Peter Lynn

    Gloria, girls like you encourage frotteurism, and who suffers? Poor Marlene. Girls who can correctly pluralize “penis” like her don’t deserve that. Who gains from this? No one but old, gross, fat men. And me. I’d say the hip is better to thrust in someone’s face than either the ass or the genitals, but if it has to be one of the two, it should be the ass, if only because it’s easier to look away and pretend you’re not doing it on purpose. By the way, I’m adding something to the list of acceptable things to litter besides newspapers: Classic literature. If it’s in the public domain, go ahead and really put it in the public domain. For instance, I downloaded and printed “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and left it behind on the subway when I was done with it today. Exposing random strangers to a little Mark Twain now and then can only be good for them.

  10. 10 Peter Lynn

    I thought of another thing: A while back, some dude was talking to a friend and not paying attention to what he was doing with his briefcase, which he managed to slide right up between my legs from behind me. He was shocked when I turned around and just about slapped it out of his hand. So another rule: Inadvertently or otherwise, don’t go near or in my butthole on public transit.


  1. 1 Muni Manners « Man vs. Clown!

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