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Train In Pain

Why is it that when you go to a coffee shop or a bar, and you want other people to sit near you, there is no way. (This happens to guys, because they go places alone. My women friends tell me they always travel in packs, so it doesn’t apply.)

But … there is an exception – airplanes and trains. Nowhere is it more important for a human over 5 feet tall to sit alone. Yet, no one will allow it. I can’t figure it out. There is no leg room. Well on airplanes, this point is moot. Air carriers have made a science of cramming people into tin cans. Those of us that are shortness impaired (tall) have given up on any seat in coach. It is inevitable that we will be sitting with our knees tucked under our chins, like we are performing a really tight one-and-a-half from the high board.

I digress …

But, on the commuter train it is different. There are always open seats. So why in the name of all that is sacred do people take the seat facing you when half the seats on the freakin train are unmanned? I guess there is a different breed of person who commutes. Like, maybe they are the people who must constantly be communicating … commute … communicate … commune … hey it is the same Latin root. Who knows?

Regardless, rather than spreading out and enjoying the space, people on the train tend to huddle up like we are stranded on the summit of Kilimanjaro. And for some unknown reason, they seem to think I am a bountiful source of human kindness from which they can warm themselves.

Oh contrar!

I am from the big sky part of Texas. We have lots of space and we damn well use it all.

Same goes for trains.

So, this morning … as I retracted my outstretched legs, to make room for a middle aged, middleweight fighter of a woman as she squeezed herself into the seat opposing me, I decided to blog about this.

Being the positive bloke that I am (sarcasm) I have compiled a list of surefire ways to protect one’s airspace on the train. When someone is eyeing the seat where your weejuns are planted, give any one of these time-honored techniques a try. Just before they sit down:

Cough spasmodically and then reach out to shake their hand.

Put both fists to either side of your head and crack your knuckles on your skull, smile, and do that nervous tick thing like Nicolas Cage in the movie Matchstick Men

Answer a call on your cell phone … (See my previous blog!)

Take a drink of your bottled water, tilt head back, gargle loudly, and then spit the water back in bottle. Close lid. Repeat.


Pull out a Tupperware bowl of three-bean salad.

Make a spit-wad sculpture of the Venus de Milo (or the Eiffel Tower if you are pressed for time).

Dust imaginary dandruff flakes from you shoulder and yell under your breath, “Get off! I told you not to follow me here.”

Place a pile of Q-tips beside you. Clean ones will do. Invite the other person to help themself.

Read aloud from gardening section of paper … No wait. That will probably be the very nectar to attract weirdos.

Do frequent sniff tests of pits. (Unfortunately, I have to recant this one. The lady who prompted this blog just sniffed her own. I BS you not. Oh, and she was so masterful. She was reading Amy Tan’s “Kitchen God” book, and as she raised the book to her face … a quick turn of the head and voila! … Air sample complete. So … like I am no longer advocating the sniff test to ward off undesirables. I fear that in the culture of train seat robbers, it is probably the secret handshake of love.)

Compliment other passengers on their shoe/sock selections.

Hum classic Christian hymns, with feelin’.

Pull a shoe off and begin to debate aloud the practicality of starting a pedicure before the train’s destination.

Transfer your cell phone from hand to hand – quick and flashy — like it is a knife in a street fight.

Blow on the train window and then with your finger, in the condensation, write “I will always love you the most, Selena.”