“I’ve cracked the code in avoiding a seatmate! Buy a hot dog just before hitting a major stop. People will board, think it’s gross, and continue on.”
“Brilliant!”replied my mother.
Unless you’re vacationing in Europe or some far away land where people are actually interesting, no one wants a stranger’s rump plopped next to them on a bus/train/airplane.
I know you’re with me on this, Reader. If you settle into your space on semi-full airplane with an empty seat by your side, undoubtedly you’ll spend the entire time before the gate closes wishing and hoping that seat remains vacant. Passengers will file in behind you, glance at their ticket and search for their 2’X 2′ real estate while you pray to the Patron Saint of Leg Room that they’ll pass you by. You want your coat to live on that seat and your book to reside there, too. You want to abolish that apology smile and awkward pointing towards the bathroom when you need to go. You’re not in kindergarten, you don’t have to ask permission if that aisle is empty! If the prick in front of you elects to recline far enough to French braid his hair or perform dentistry, that empty seat is your back-up, your in-flight savior.
Buses and trains with their general seating involve sheer fate. With every station stop, I avoid eye-contact with oncoming passengers so as not to appear friendly and eager. And eye contact truly is the kiss of death. People are panicked to find a place to settle and begin their journey that if the vessel is already crowded, any hint of availability will seal the reluctant deal. Not unlike mall kiosks employees: If you can avert your gaze without tripping over a rogue toddler, then the likelihood of a cease and desist while sold a premium home security system is next to nil.
I don’t condemn friendliness, yet the insurgence of weirdos and general inconsiderations like obnoxious prolonged cell phone use is a dime a dozen; quiet roomy space comes at a premium. Yet, while appearing bulky and fidgety (puffy coat, computer equipment) is a fair strategy of deterrent, placing your crap on that empty seat is an inconsiderate dirty trick. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I hate those people. As if to say their jacket belongs to someone else and they’ll be right back. I know your scam, you cheap seat-terrorist.
Years ago, I would take the Peter Pan Bus Lines to visit my hometown in Rhode Island. Mainstream commercial bus travel* endures too many variables: accidents, traffic jams, once getting lost and once Connecticut state police boarding to arrest three convicts on the run. Sure, it’s entertaining but that noise was time consuming and if you’re trapped against a greasy window listening to someone’s life story while mentally calculating how much time you have to live before your bladder explodes, well, tedium.
So, as I sit on the New York bound Amtrak train hunched over a hot dog trying to appear sloppy and ungraceful while balancing this computer on my tray, I pray to the Leg Room Saint my aisle seat remains clear until New York Penn Station.
My good friend Craig H. suggested the scent of a tuna sandwich is far more offensive and therefore more effective than the aforementioned hot dog. I concur as I would sooner donate my left femur before eating a mayo-drowned lunch. Food for thought, pun annoyingly intended.