The Morality of Someone Sitting Next to You on Public Transport

The Morality of Someone Sitting Next to You on Public Transport

We’ve all been there (apart from dumbass rich people who have always owned cars). And that’s sitting on public transport. Many of us have made a career out of it. Mr. Wapojif has spent at least 1/10th of his life on a bus.

There are rules to this (see tips for bus usage etiquette). As having to be in such close contact with scumbag proletariats is bad enough.

But it throws up moral dilemmas for which there are few answers. Mr. Wapojif experienced such a case yesterday on a busy train.

During an hour long journey, the extremely busy compartment became increasingly sparse the further away from populated areas we journeyed. Normally, this is bliss.

A quiet train. Time to read! Sadly not. No. “OMG, what happened!?” you opine. Read on to find out more, Macduff.

How to Deal With Someone Sitting Next to You on Public Transport

Despite the train becoming free of seats, the lady sitting next to Mr. Wapojif refused to budge.

We were left sitting there for 30 minutes crammed into a two seater compartment, with an entirely empty train ahead of us (at least 100+ free seats), whilst Mr. W attempted to read Yukio Mishima’s The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea (it’s a good book).

This woman could have easily moved elsewhere, allowing us maximum comfort on the ramshackle Manchester-Southport.

Tragically, it’s not as simple as this. Moral standards have to be considered.

Mr. Wapojif has been in the reverse situation numerous times (where he could possibly move to an empty seat, thusly allowing bus/train seat partner more space) and has become quite panicked about what moving to a new seat would promote to his bus/train partner.

What exactly DO they think if, or when, you move!? Let’s consider the possibilities.

The Psychology of Politeness on Public Transport

These are a few of the things were worried we may be telling fellow commuters:

  • I smell bad, therefore the man has moved to a different seat.
  • This man hates my guts! I must engage him promptly in fisticuffs!
  • This man is a psychopath and is heading elsewhere to plot his dastardly deeds!
  • This man is prejudiced. He hates me as I am a man/woman/smelly person.

Are any of these accurate? Possibly not. We’ve been guilty of overthinking things regularly. This moral conundrum has but two solutions. These are:

  1. Sit there and bear it out uncomfortably so as not to hurt this person’s feelings (even if this person wishes you to move, in which case you’re merely enraging them).
  2. Move from the seat and put as much distance from your erstwhile seat partner and yourself as possible (potentially enraging/panicking/demoralising them in the process, or prompting their undying love for your awareness of personal space).

It’s a horrifying state of affairs which plays out daily in the UK.

Will this madness ever end!? Yes! With the joys of remote working post-pandemic. Well, that was a nice reprieve and a half.


  1. This situation is easily dealt with if there are toilets on the train. A pretend visit provides an excuse. Or you could pretend to make or take a phone call and move away to be polite. Or, in the case of the squished one, you could take it to mean than the squisher fancies you. Which should fill you with enough speculation to last at least an hour!


    • BONJOUR, Imelda. I trust all is super in Australia!?! You is quite right. I get too panicked and don’t think things through. A mere, “Excuse me sir/ma’am, but may one get by so one can occasion the lavatory?”.

      I’ve sometimes considered starting laughing hysterically. Should be enough to drive any sane person away. Mwa. Mwahahaha!


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