Miss Conduct

How to deal with seat hogs on the commuter rail

Sometimes people walk off in a huff when I ask for the open spot at a three-seater.

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When I board the local commuter train, the seats designed for three are all occupied by two people. When I ask for a seat (I’m an average-sized, middle-aged guy) I’m generally offered the middle spot, which I thankfully accept. Occasionally, the person closest to the aisle just gets up in a huff and walks away without a word. Am I missing some unwritten rule about sharing train seats?

J.C. / Boston

Judging by the evidence as presented, apparently you are! But that doesn’t mean it’s a good rule, or one worthy of obedience. Bostonians do have a habit of leaving an empty seat between unacquainted passengers, but it’s a stupid time-and-space-wasting habit that we ought to break. (In no other city except the Athens of America have I witnessed this behavior.)

I assume you are clean and inoffensive of person, and not flopping backpack straps and jacket sleeves all over your seatmates, nor knee-battling them for dominance?


If so, they have no legitimate cause for complaint. Sit as you please.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.