Standing room only

These are my last few days of work at the beeb. Just as well. It’s standing room only on the trains between Cambridge and Kings Cross. And yet, somehow, I can’t get the hang of it.

  • A couple of times now I have stood up to offer my seat to someone and nobody has taken it. Both times I remained standing and I remained puzzled by the contrast between this behaviour and the great impersonal no-eye-contact struggle to get on board and get a seat before the train departed. Could it really be that the difference is that if I stand up, anyone who takes my seat will know whom they are depriving whereas during the initial game of dischordant musical chairs there may be “winners and losers” but you never really know who’s seat you’ve taken.
  • Yesterady a suited man stood up and went down the carriage to speak to his friend. This entailed pushing past some standing passengers, including myself. We looked expectactly toward his seat, only to find he had put his brief case there. As we approached the next station he put on his coat and his friend pushed his way past us to take his seat when he got off. “And thanks for the seat”,  I heard him call as his friend disembarked. Meanwhile several other seated passengers got off and, once again, two seats remained empty, dispite the standing passengers all the way to Cambridge.

This last story reminds me of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: “Property is Theft“. To what extent does a man own the seat he is sitting on in a train? And to what extent is it his after he gets off? Can this thing be given away to someone else? What about all the standing passengers who? And to what extent are the forests oceans and atmosphere of this planet ours? What about after we have died? Do we have the right to claim it as ours and to pollute the places where our grandchildren might sit?

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