12 Sept 2009

Incident on a train


After a fine day – good weather, good shopping on Oxford St, Roti at Roti Joupa, pint of Fuller’s ESB Ale on Tottenham Court Road, 73 bus back to London Kings Cross – The Captain (i.e. me) arrived in good time for the 18:45  out of platform 11b [for newbies, I’m not the Captain of the train]. As the train came in and ‘11b’ flashed up on the board, you should see how people began to move – pony tails and ruck-sacks bouncing. They looked like rats stampeding.

It’s the usual around that time of day. Everyone waits on the train to pull in and once you see which platform is announced, there is sprint to the carriages. When you’re from a banana republic it may not be obvious to you why all this happens. Basically there are more people than seats – so the stampede is to find a seat.


pendplan Well, The Captain (i.e. me) and two of his family got into a carriage and saw 5 seats unoccupied. Two of my family occupy two window seats facing each other. One woman was sitting next to the two family members and one seat was left seemingly unoccupied in the set of four (see left to see how they are grouped in fours). So for example my family members are in 44 and 48. The woman mentioned was sitting in 43. So I’m thinking that I should sit with my family in 47.

I see a handbag and politely as the woman (No. 1) if anyone has taken the seat – with a handbag placed on it. She says “No..I’m keeping it for my nan.. she’ll come any minute… she’s on her way.” I look to two empty seats in 41 and 42. Two people in 45 and 46 say they’re keeping 41 & 42 for friends.  I move to the next carriage to see if I can find a seat. I see two seats but with objects on them. At this point I’m unhappy because it is a first come first serve system on public transport unless you’re disabled or have booked first-class seats – and people are reserving seats for their friends and family, while I who came ahead of them am unable to sit.

I return to 47 – the cubicle with my two family members. I gently remove the handbag that was being used to reserve 47. I hand it to the woman in 43.

She then raises a protest, “ARE YOU TAKING THE SEAT.. I TOLD YOU IT’S FOR MY NAN!!

I reply, “Yes I am occupying the seat.. I am entitled to sit here.


Me, “This seat is not reserved for OAPs there is no sign stating anything of the kind.”

The nan then arrives with some woman (no.2) – who is now standing behind my seat (out of eyesight) – and carries on a conversation with the one who’s shouting. No.1 goes, “He’s just taken the seat and says he’s entitled to it!!

Someone asked me if I’m going to move (at this point I’m pretty much switched off) – and I say “No”. Yup – No – just like that!! Then comes the abuse - “He’s a man isn’t he – what can you expect!” Followed by other abusive sneering remarks. After the “No”, I engage myself with my mobile phone and place myself in another world. The woman (no.1) who was shouting then vacates her seat for her nan. 


Woman No.1 who was shouting – then ends up to my left – at 46. I don’t know exactly how. She carries on conversation with two others in that set of four seats and across the aisle to her nan in 43.


  1. Are paying passengers on public transport authorised to reserve seats for their favoured people?
  2. Are other passengers obliged to respect such reservations?
  3. Do OAPs carry some special privileges – that they can enforce in law – over all economy seats on trains?
  4. If a person has not arrived to take a seat that is first-come-first-serve can they exert a right over that seat?
  5. Is it a fair response to abuse people who do not comply with any of these kinds of reservations?