Last year I wrote a piece about the strategies commuters use to get seats on trains. I ended up appearing on a few radio programmes that portrayed me as an expert on the social rules of public transport, or at least someone who was unreasonably obsessed with that topic.
So I’m heartened to hear about Esther Kim of Yale University, who has “chalked up thousands of miles of bus travel to examine the unspoken rules and behaviors of commuters” while working on a paper called Nonsocial Transient Behavior: Social Disengagement on the Greyhound Bus.
“I became what’s known as an experienced traveler and I jotted down many of the different methods people use to avoid sitting next to someone else,” said Kim. “We engage in all sorts of behavior to avoid others, pretending to be busy, checking phones, rummaging through bags, looking past people or falling asleep. Sometimes we even don a ‘don’t bother me face’ or what’s known as the ‘hate stare’.”
And I thought I was brave to spend 90 minutes a day on an Overground train from Highbury to Kensington. Esther’s exhaustive research has truly put me in the shade.