Have a seat

There’s a kind of science to finding a good seat on the train. As if that weren’t enough, the game changes drastically from morning to evening. Observe:

In the morning, you’re a lot more likely to find a seat. Statistically, it doesn’t really make sense, but leading researchers in the field (ahem) hypothesize it has something to do with people caring less about what time they start working, but all wanting to knock off around five or six.

The point is, you will most likely be able to find a seat for your butt in the a.m. The trick is knowing which one to take.

Now, a lot of people will get excited when they see an empty two-seater. All right! they’ll think. I don’t have to share with anyone!

But this is a rookie mistake. Because, you see, unless your stop is only a station or two from the train’s final destination, someone is going to come on and ask to sit with you. This becomes empirically truer the more you are female, friendly looking, and under 150 pounds.

I know what you’re thinking: But Justine, if that’s not right, then where should I sit?

Well, I’ll tell you. In the three-seater that already has someone sitting in the window seat. And I know this seems counter-intuitive, but it’s even better if they’re marginally overweight. You’re really shooting for someone who’s about 1.5 people.

I’ll explain. Even though this strategy very clearly leaves the middle seat technically free, no one will ever ask to sit there unless the train is uncharacteristically crowded. Think about it; would you choose to squeeze in between two strangers in a narrow space, especially when one if them is already taking up half of your seat? Probably not, and very few other people would either.

That leaves you with not only exactly enough space to spread out and set your stuff down without actually touching anyone else, but also with a coveted aisle seat, meaning you can stand up by the doors a minute or two early without interruption, thereby shortening the amount of time you have to wait to get off the train.

Of course, there’s always the chance that you’ll be trapped in a two-seater with someone else, and then that person will move to another row after the train clears out a bit at Jamaica, but there are really too many factors at play to feel confident in that plan.

I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I have put a lot of thought into this.

Of course, all bets are off on the commute home. First of all, from the moment your track is announced, every second counts. Literally, every second it takes you to get to the platform and into a car lessens your chance of having a seat. And let’s get one thing straight right now: Unless you are 200 pounds, you are not getting your own row. Maybe not even then.

Assuming you’re like the average employed New Yorker and don’t have time to get to the station 20 minutes early, you are probably walking onto the train after most of the prime real estate has been snatched up. You now have one of two choices:

1.) Give up and go stand by the doors. Maybe someone will get off at Jamaica and you can have their seat.

2.) Be bold. Because there are almost always seats to be had, whether it’s a window seat of a two-seater or those middle seats in the three-seater. You just have to want it bad enough.

And don’t be put off by the smug tourists with their shopping bags, uptight princesses with their giant designer purses, or grumpy business men with their coats and laptops. If you ask to sit there, train code says they have to let you. And the worst they can do is give you a dirty look and keep “accidentally” sliding into your personal space.

So there you have it. Everything I’ve garnered in my time as a commuter. Now, disclaimer: There will always be exceptions to these rules, but they’re still the rules. Follow them, and you just might be strong enough to survive.

Or at the very least, blend with the regulars.

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7 thoughts on “Have a seat

  1. hahahahaha! i commute via subway every day into san francisco and the same rules apply out here!

  2. Hahaha remembering my Hofstra LIRR days and how everyone sprints to the train the moment the track is announced even though you really have 10-15 minutes left. Oh, nostalgia.

    ALSO: don’t you hate how when someone is sitting in the aisle of a two or three seater and when you ask if you can sit down, they get up to make sure you’re in the inside seat, because God forbid you get to exit the train before they do when you get to Penn??

    • True confessions: I AM that person. It’s just because otherwise the whole car will get up before me, and then I have to wait in line! (Plus, I’m really impatient…)

      • Well I’m glad to see you haven’t converted to true Long Islander-ism, saying “on line” instead of “in line.” Had many an argument with college newspaper editors on that one!

      • OMG thank you SO much for saying that. If I had to pick the one thing that I can’t understand about them the most, I think that would be it. (You know, aside from the acrylic nails…)

  3. Im shocked you’ve come to that realization in your short history of commuting. It took me longer to realize that but the overweight window person in the 3 seater is the way to go. I often do the 2 seater because I’m thin enough n over 50% of people are ok to sit With. That dreaded overweight woman with too much perfume is the one I fear the most. But I refuse to stand so I will sit right down anywhere. I pay too much to stand so I will wait for the next train or jump into That middle seat. That’s right, I’m That guy

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