The unwritten rules of commuting


Becky and I often wonder why people behave so oddly on our commutes and so we decided to suggest some rules for commuting … (with input from Charlie and Ruth on Twitter – Thanks!)

Bear in mind if you break them you almost certainly will be the subject to a Facebook status or a tweet.

General tips:

1. Be polite if possible

2. Remember we’re all in it together. Yes it is stressful but if you had to get up at six to do this chances are so did everyone else.

3. Follow your transport company on Twitter. They will give you the most up to date advice and some (Southern) are quite funny too.

4. Follow other commuters who make the same journey as you on Twitter.

5. Things WILL go wrong. It isn’t always the transport company’s fault. Remember this and be thankful they are trying to get you on your way.

6. When things go wrong (if it is offered) claim back your rail fare. If you aren’t sure ask.

All modes of transport

1. We do not want to hear your music. Especially if it is Westlife. Buy some decent headphones and turn the volume down.

2. If you are reading a newspaper try and keep it within your own seat area.

3. Don’t read a broadsheet on public transport (see above)

4. If you are having a text conversation turn your phone to silent.

5. If you decided (stupidly) to travel in rush hour with a child put them on your lap or make several children share seats.

The platform:

1. People have their own spots and you must take this into consideration when new to a platform. If you are new to this, hang around at the back of platform, assess the space and get on the train last.

2. If you are the last one to arrive at the platform DO NOT try and push on the train before the people who have been waiting there before you.

3. If it is an overground or mainline train you are required to press the button to open the door. The person who does this should get on the train first – after all you wouldn’t be getting on the train so quickly without them.

4. Let people off the train first (come on, this is common sense but some people choose to ignore this)

Image by MichelKuik via Flickr

On the (overground/mainline) train:

1. When you get on the train don’t block the aisle whilst taking five minutes to take your coat off, neatly fold it and place it in the overhead shelf. Then another 5 minutes to unpack your belongings neatly in front of you. See all those people in a line glaring at you when there are empty seats? YOU ARE CAUSING THAT QUEUE. (Same applies with prolonged getting off the train).

2. If there is a spare seat next to the window don’t be a plonker and sit on the aisle seat. It’s annoying for all involved; someone has to ask to sit down, you have to move to let them in, you then have to sit down again. Certainly don’t sigh when someone asks to sit in the window seat. (Caveat: sit in the aisle seat if you are very tall or if you are only going one stop as this may be less disruptive – but still don’t moan when people want to sit in the window seat).

3. If you are sitting in the aisle seat you don’t take all the middle arm rest – you have plenty of space in the aisle. Don’t be greedy.

4. A key one – don’t invade others space – you paid for one ticket, you only get one seat.

5. Your case does not deserve a seat. It is grubby and seats are for people. If you are worried about it stand with it.

6. Don’t argue with loved ones on the phone – its embarrassing for all involved. Especially for you when you realise everyone is giggling and gossiping about you. (Same applies with flirting).

7. Don’t spread confidential papers across the table or make confidential phone calls. I know a lot about court cases, CVs, disciplinary actions, deals and planned take overs from the train.

8. Staring at the people who got on further down the line and therefore have seats will not make them get up and let you have the seat.

Description: F Train, Manhattan-bound, 17 May ...
Image via Wikipedia

Tube trains:

1. Same platform rules apply for regular commuters.

2. Personal hygiene – now this is an important one; take note. Tubes get very hot when crowded and even more so in summer. Do not reach up to hold onto bars if you suspect there is any chance of a slight smell of sweat patch.

3. For us space efficient people out there this is the worse possible thing. I would rather you tried your best to balance and occasionally fall over rather than be unhygienic.

4. If you feel unwell – get off the bloody train. No-one wants to be the one who holds up the entire underground line whilst they remove you off the train.

5. Please bring odd items on the tube – it creates great amusement for us other passengers. Did you know there is a twitter account and website dedicated to you people?!

6. When travelling on any mode of transport hold on (remembering an earlier rule). You know what happens to those who don’t. You fall over that’s what. You travel everyday – you know this happens.


1. Stand to the bloody right!! That’s all I have to say on the matter!

Wheely suitcases:

1. If you have one – wheel it properly. It’s not hard. Oh and think about where you stop. Stopping dead in the middle of the station or platform isn’t the best idea in the world!

2.If you are a regular wheely suitcase user – invest in a four wheel one.

3. Do not wheel it off escalators – it never works and it always ends up wheeling out of control. I’m thinking of you here – people WILL tut!!

4. Your wheely suitcase is behind you. Do not forget this as you wheel it over peoples toes.

Remember the words of Lao-Tzu “A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”

Other Useful Posts / Links:

Thanks again to the wonderful Becky Hill for her great work on her first guest / co-authored post!


Following publication of this post we have had several additions suggested (if you have more please feel free to comment):

1. If you block the door don’t get funny when people want to get off.

2. When using a laptop that doesn’t mean you can take up the whole table.

3. Don’t tap your laptop keys loudly (buy and iPad and this is no longer a problem)

4. I  had one guy hang his coat on the hook by the window seat..I was sitting there! Coat in my face for entire journey, not happy!!

5. When standing in the aisle take off your rucksack, don’t bash me in the face with it!  < This happens a lot. Several people suggested it

6. When you are on the train toVictoria DO NOT stand up ready to get off as soon as you pass Clapham Junction – you have 5 minutes.

7. If you are in the aisle seat don’t wait until you are at the destination to pack up your belongings. Especially if the person in the window seat has their coat, hat, scarf and gloves on.

8. Don’t stretch your legs out under the table if someone is sitting opposite you.

9. On the bus DO NOT sit on someone < apparently this happens

10. On the bus (and there is room) if you get on do not stop in the aisle move on or upstairs.

11. If you don’t have a book / newspaper / iPad/ computer / phone /other form of entertainment staring at the person opposite is not ok.

12. Don’t put your bag on the seat to stop people sitting there. We will ask you to move it even if there are empty seats.

13. Do not listen to music without headphones

14. When someone needs to get off the bus and you are on the aisle, twisting yourself slightly to allow them off will not do. Step up and let them off. Chances are neither of you are slim enough to allow this manoeuvre to work.

15. Don’t take someone’s Metro (or other newspaper) until at least 10 seconds have passed since they have put it down and generally it is polite to ask “Have you finished with that?”

It was also pointed out that people who can’t read the sign to stand on the right on the escalator probably won’t read this but here’s hoping a bit of politeness may come to commuting … a lot of people have the same annoynaces!

Feel free to add more to the comments!


How not to be a librarian (or possible customer services training video?)

This was one of the videos I found for my “Management for people who aren’t interested in management” presentation.

Quotes …

My very good friend Liz and I collect quotes, poems and the like.  Some to boost us when we are blue, some to make us laugh and some to inspire us.

I’m going to paste the odd one or two here when they strike me as being especially good!

Here are a couple to start with:

“A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us.”

Franz Kafka

“All that mankind has done, thought, gained, or been; it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books.”

Thomas Carlyle

“When you read a classic you do not see in the book more than you did before. You see more in you than there was before.”

Clifton Fadiman

“I must say that I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a book.”

Groucho Marx

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