“Excuse me!”

I travel to work on the Long Island Rail Road and I tend to notice interesting bits of behaviour. One behaviour in particular is the inability of passengers to say, “Excuse me” when they want to exit a row.

The typical train has 5 seats in a row – three on one side of the aisle and two on the other  – there isn’t enough space to pass the person sitting in the aisle seat without first asking them to move.

So, how do they indicate that they need to exit? Well, it’s really simple … they start to fidget. They gather their things and angle their bodies and there is this expected agreement that this fidgeting means they want to exit. This reminded me so much of a post on “She’s not from Yorkshire1” that, one day, when I was in a particularly mischievous mood, I decided to see what would happen if I ignored the “I need to leave” cues.

We were waiting to pull into the station at Jamaica – a big transfer station – when the lady next to me started to gather her things and angle her body. I wasn’t listening to music, only reading a book, and I decided to be conveniently engrossed in the paragraph that I was reading. This wasn’t difficult, the book was a good one2, and I was at a good part. It took her a moment to realise that I was missing her cues, but she finally said, “Excuse me!” and so I said, “Sure!” and got up.

Thankfully she was nice about it3. I just find it interesting, wouldn’t it be easier – and quicker – to say, “Excuse me!” than to fidget and wait for the person next to you to notice?


1 They do that in NYC as well!
2 I was reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
3 I was lucky to get a decent person, not all people are decent and not all people will react politely. Basically, this is a disclaimer saying, “Reactions may vary, so observe with wisdom”.

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