Commutiquette

Reading time: 2 mins

Sure, she was pretty. But should she have touched my knee?

The morning commute never passes without some form of physical contact. Usually it means standing on someone’s foot, or being thrown against someone as the train lurches along. Nothing personal in those actions, no intent, pure accident. These are incidents are all within the commuter rules.

But I feel a boundary has been crossed, I’m just not sure which one.

She sat down opposite me, opened her book and we largely managed to ignore each other for the entire journey. That’s what commuters do, establish the boundaries – this is my seat and I’m reading the paper – and then maintain those boundaries without question. Only when it is time to depart, are you allowed a fleeting moment with which to cross the boundary and only then if it is absolutely required.

Anyway, the train pulls into Central Station. I finish reading the paper and slide it onto the half-table at the window. She slips a bookmark into her book (Monday’s Child) and closes it. She reaches down for her bag, and swings it forward and up and straight into my shin.

So far so good. It’s an accidental incident, well within the accepted rules (accepted, never agreed you’ll note… we are an odd lot, so many unwritten rules that we seem to accept by osmosis). Then it happens.

I glance at her in reaction, she lifts her head, leans forward and whilst apologising she lightly touches my right knee. Sure it’s a bit Terry Wogan but that’s not the point. She’s broken a rule.

Or has she? Maybe she comes from a different place where the commuter rules are (gasp! Ohh the horror) NOT THE SAME AS OURS. Can this be? Is it true?

I think we need a list, a definitive list of commuter rules. I’ll start:

  1. If you do not know me, do not talk to me.
  2. If I get the last seat on the crowded train the only way you are going to get it is if you faint, and I can spot a fake faint from 100 yards.
  3. The previous rule holds true unless you are very old or very pregnant, again, I can spot a faker from 100 yards.
  4. My newspaper may encroach into your personal space but it will never touch you, nor yours mine.

Anymore?