Park Your Bags Elsewhere!

by admin on November 26, 2013

I’m submitting the following to see if anyone at E-hell can help me find a polite spine and help me to resolve a problem that myself and a number of others seem to run into. Each summer my husband and I attend a gaming convention (think Dungeons and Dragons, etc). This convention is held in a great city that has a large convention space capable of fitting every possible aspect of this convention. Parts of it even spread into neighboring hotels and even the restaurants get into it. It’s truly a great event. The one issue I have run into in the convention center itself is that there’s rarely anywhere to sit. Why? Because every bench is ALWAYS taken up by one person who seems to think that their bags are more important than another human being.

It’s estimated that a person who attends this convention will walk an average of 8 miles a day, whether it’s hoofing it around the hall, or to and from your hotel to the hall to restaurants etc, so proper sit breaks are a MUST now and then. What are we supposed to do or say when we encounter someone who has taken up a whole bench between themselves and the bags of things that they have purchased? I’ve tried a polite, “Hi there, I was just wondering, is anyone sitting on that half of the bench?” and the most frequent response I get is someone barely glancing up at me, snorting as if to say, “Are you serious?”, then sticking their nose back in whatever they were looking at. It got so bad the most recent time I attended that I started seeking out the bathrooms that had chairs for nursing mothers and sitting on those. (And before anyone even asks, if anyone came in obviously in need of that chair, I gave it up.)

It should also be noted that there is NO reasonable excuse for these people to be putting their bags on these benches. There is space on either side of the benches for people to put their things so that they are out of the way of any possible foot traffic. So what do we do to actually reclaim some of this seat space from people who think their bags are more important? 1114-13

I have a streak of orneriness in me and upon hearing that snort, I would have interpreted it as a “no” and said,  “Great!   I am delighted that no one is sitting on that half of the bench. Can I help you move your bags? I really need to rest my feet.”  Done quite cheerfully, btw.

{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

Rhonda Therrien November 26, 2013 at 4:24 am

I really hate this. The airport I work at has dedicated smoking booths outside. They have done their best to accommodate people by putting three benches in the booth, including a heat lamp and light. Being that I am a smoker, I will go out on my break and wish to sit down and smoke and read on my Nook for the a couple of minutes. I find often that arriving passengers have placed their bags on all of the benches and stand in the middle of the booth under the heat, leaving a few inches for me to sit and enjoy my break. Some will move their items to allow me a place to sit, but more often than not, I actually push the bags over. And don’t get me started on those that feel the need to chat with me while I’m trying to read…

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Alice November 26, 2013 at 4:44 am

I also attend cons and I used to do this unfortunately, BUT I’ve changed my ways and always try not carry more than what can fit in my lap. I’d say just ask again in a more serious tone “Excuse me, can I sit here?” and keep asking until they give me a definite No or Yes, you’re not an animal to be snorted at.

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Green123 November 26, 2013 at 5:08 am

Don’t overthink this. ‘Excuse me, can I sit down please? Thank you’ should be sufficient. If it’s not, just scoot the bags along and sit down – bags do not require a seat. Same goes for dogs and very small children – the former can sit on the floor, the latter can sit on their mom’s knee.

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Maggie November 26, 2013 at 5:46 am

What’s wrong with a simple “Could you please move your bag?” As a statement though – not a question because of COURSE they’re going to move their bags!

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Charliesmum November 26, 2013 at 7:41 am

Well, I could ALMOST see why the person would be thinking ‘are you serious’ if you asked ‘is anyone sitting there’ when clearly no one is. :) Seriously I know what you are saying is ‘if you aren’t actually holding that spot for someone in your party, can I please sit there’ but some people aren’t good, well, thinking. Maybe it would be best just to say ‘excuse me, I would like to sit down, could you please move your bag?’ Or ‘may I please sit down?’ That way if they say ‘I’m saving it for someone’ you can say ‘I will happily move when the get here, I just need to reast my feet for a moment.’

(And I know, easy for me to say when I’m sitting at my computer with time to think rather than in the situation, but there you go!)

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Kahomono November 26, 2013 at 7:48 am

I ask, “Is all that yours?” with a look that tells them I don’t think “all that” is more entitled to a seat than my butt is.

This works.

But I’m 6 ft tall and, shall we say, massive. So I don’t get a lot of push-back.

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E November 26, 2013 at 7:52 am

I think a better approach would be to ask, “Excuse me, are these your bags?” If they answer yes, then “Well, would you please move them, I really need to sit down for a minute.” They don’t own the bench, and inanimate objects certainly do not take precedence over a real human’s need to use it.

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Kimberly November 26, 2013 at 8:19 am

Honestly, if it were me, I would probably not even ask. I would jsut remove bags, put by person sitting there, because I would assume they are their bags, and sit down.

If they question it, I would politely say, “This bench is for butts, not bags”. (Well, that can be interpreted two ways, can’t it?).

If those bags were supposed to be “saved” seats, “So sorry. They are not here now, but I am”.

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HeartvsBrain November 26, 2013 at 8:36 am

I treat these situations the same as I do on public transportation. I simply say, “Would you move your bags so I can sit please?” I think telling someone politely what to do, versus asking them, is the way to go in this modern world where manners and compassion are hard to find sometimes. You know you have the right to a seat covered in bags. So don’t ask someone if you may sit there, they don’t own the bench any more than you. Tell them you’re going to sit there by asking them politely to move their bags. In my mind, this is the proper mix of spine and politeness.

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SS November 26, 2013 at 8:38 am

Its the same irritation I get when a woman gets huffy when I ask to use the chair that she has commandeered to hold her purse. Although when it is standing-room-only at that point at the bar, the special snowflake believes that her purse deserves its own seat. We went to dinner the other night and asked to sit at the bar. When the waitress asked the woman to move her purse,the woman huffed, rolled her eyes and glared at us before removing her purse from the chair next to her. This is a restaurant that usually has 1-hour long waits to get in so every seat is at a premium yet she expected the chair to be her property. (I’m not talking about chairs at someone’s personal dining table… I’m referring to public chairs). Before anyone starts telling me that I just don’t understand the importance of purses… I’m female too.

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Rap November 26, 2013 at 9:42 am

“. Same goes for dogs and very small children – the former can sit on the floor, the latter can sit on their mom’s knee”

I’m absolutely certain that mothers will point out that their child has as much right as you to sit on a bench. Dogs not so much but really, I dare you to tell some mom to pick up her kid and get it on her knee because you deserve to sit more.

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The Elf November 26, 2013 at 9:50 am

Ah, gamers. I am one, I love the hobby, but gaming does tend to attract people who are a little socially clueless. It’s actually one of the reasons I started reading this site – I’ve got a dose of cluelessness myself and have learned a lot.

Anyway, the problem is at the convention you have a lot of people wandering around, all getting tired, all getting cranky, all super excited, getting “introvert overload”, you name it. It’s not a recipe for courtesy, unfortunately. Admin’s response is dead on. The bags (or a purse) doesn’t deserve a seat; you are well within your rights to ask them to move the stuff so you can sit.

I handle cons by building in some “rest” time. If I have a hotel room nearby, I go back to the hotel and rest up. If I drove there, I’ll take a break in my car. Otherwise, scout around the place for unused or lightly used halls and rooms on the first day and make note of them. The trek there is worth it because you can sit and chill for a longer period of time. At Gencon, that would be the second floor of the convention center, towards the back, where the minatures games are focused. There are usually some corners in the big rooms too. For instance, at a gaming convention, there’s usually a big room filled with multiple small game events – usually board or card games that have a limited number of players. You’ll sometimes find empty seats between the game boards. Ask before you sit, of course. If you have health problems that require you to take frequent sitting breaks, then it might be worth it to rent one of those scooters or a wheelchair, like you would at a big amusement park.

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Glitter November 26, 2013 at 9:59 am

I’d go with a cheerful “Oh, let me help you move these bags! Boy sure is great to get to sit down!”, bags don’t mind sitting on the floor. They’re perfectly fine with it in fact.

And @SS, I always think keeping my purse on the chair next to me is asking for my purse to get stolen (at least at a bar, a table is a bit different, but not much). Too easy for me to look away and boom, bye bye purse. I usually put in on the floor between my feet or right in my lap. I’d also probably get up and forget it if I had in a chair next to me (most things that sit in chairs next me are humans and are very good at remembering to come with me).

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AthenaC November 26, 2013 at 10:01 am

Ha! “Delighted” is such a great word. It doesn’t get used often enough. I would definitely copy+paste admin’s response.

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EllenS November 26, 2013 at 10:22 am

When I used to ride public transport, I would just gesture to the bags and say, “May I?” or “May I sit, please?”. 90% of the time, the person would move the bags. Of course, my gesture and voice were giving the impression that I was planning to move the bags myself, and asking permission was just a courtesy.
People take precedence over things. The air of authority as you become more confident about this, will make all the difference.

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Shoebox November 26, 2013 at 10:44 am

Yep, you’re overthinking. *Of course* that half of the bench is free, so all you need to do is get that person to move their stuff.

I wouldn’t really advise simply trying to move it yourself without at least giving some notice; and even then, keep in mind that you don’t actually know what it is, or how valuable it might be to the owner. The cluelessly absorbed person who looks up suddenly to see a perfect stranger holding one of their bags of hard-earned swag is probably not someone whom you’re subsequently going to enjoy sharing a bench with.

Just take a deep breath, smile brightly and overwhelm with the sheer expectation of basic human decency. “Hi! Do you mind moving some of this over so I can sit?” Then stand there, still smiling. Repeat as necessary, perhaps varied with a rise in volume or an “Excuse me…?”, but always maintaining that cheery air of uber-obvious fellowship. “Boy, this is a busy place, huh? So nice to have a chance to sit!”

If after a few rounds of this the sittee is still not muttering “Oh! Right, sure…” and clearing away, it’s up to you to decide whether, again, you really want to make a point of sitting next to this boor. If you’re desperate, security forces should be nearby.

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Green123 November 26, 2013 at 10:54 am

“I’m absolutely certain that mothers will point out that their child has as much right as you to sit on a bench. Dogs not so much but really, I dare you to tell some mom to pick up her kid and get it on her knee because you deserve to sit more.”

To come back to your rather agressive response on this, I will point out that on buses and trains in the area where I live (in the UK), there are specific requirements that ‘children under 5 must not occupy a seat while adults are standing’, and drivers do ask parents to move their children onto their lap if it’s practical. I have a medical condition do yes, I do deserve more to sit down on a bus, or a bench, or otherwise.. I can and have asked mom to pop her small child on her knee for a few moments, and the response has always been positive.

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Cat November 26, 2013 at 10:59 am

I resolved the purse situation by having a fanny pack. I cannot forget it and anyone who wants to take it will have to get close-up and personal. It also holds my 38 Smith and Wesson. (Yes, I have a concealed weapon permit).
Your mistake is making your request a question. Say, “Excuse me ,but I am going to sit down. I’ll just slide your bags over or would you prefer to put them on the floor?” They don’t have the option of whether to let you sit or not. Their only option is putting bags on the floor or letting you push them out of your way.
Where do you live that people act this way?

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Alazne November 26, 2013 at 11:05 am

“I’m absolutely certain that mothers will point out that their child has as much right as you to sit on a bench. Dogs not so much but really, I dare you to tell some mom to pick up her kid and get it on her knee because you deserve to sit more”

It’s not a case of deserve to sit more, but of general politeness. 9 times out of 10, there’s no reason why a very small child (i.e under 2) can’t sit on a parent’s lap. It’s a very common rule on public transportation to maximise available seating; and if the seating situation elsewhere is that difficult, then all of us should do what we can to maximise the impact we take up, whether that’s keeping baggage or pets off seats, or putting small children on laps.

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Rap November 26, 2013 at 11:30 am

In the States, not so much, Green123

Not saying your medical condition doesn’t qualify you to a seat, but in the US, you might get an arguement from a parent about how its not obligatory that they hold a four year old on their lap to provide you a seat.

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Ashley November 26, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Hi all, OP here! After reading some of these responses, I feel really dumb, and have realized there’s an issue with how I have been phrasing my attempts to find out if I can sit there rather than letting the bags take up the space. It’s just odd to me, because anywhere else in the world I have been, I ask “Is this seat taken?” and if it’s not, the person usually scrambles to move their stuff and apologizes profusely. Conventions though, I’m not sure why, but if I ask if the seat is taken, there’s no scramble to move stuff, I usually get the snort that indicates their bags are somehow more important than me. I’ll try being more direct and saying “I could really use a break, would you please move your bags?”

And to The Elf, I am in fact talking about GenCon. Small world eh? I must have some really dumb luck though because any time I try to scout the areas you are talking about, there is either something just starting or just ending and I have to wait for the hall to clear out if I want a seat.

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nk November 26, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I’m siding with the people who don’t lump children under the category of “possessions.” Asking someone to move their stuff so you can sit is reasonable. Trying to take a seat from a little kid just because you’re an adult is unreasonable and, in my opinion, rude. People often offer their seat to a pregnant woman, a disabled person, etc. if there is limited seating available, but you need them to OFFER you their seat. Just walking up to someone and demanding that they or their child give up their seat to you is rude. Even if you think you deserve it more because of a medical condition, you don’t know their situation–maybe they have a medical condition that is not visible to you.

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Jaxsue November 26, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Green, I wish the US had rules like those in the UK. I was taught to give up a seat for older people when I was a child, and if a child is quite small it does seem to be a logical, polite thing to do.
Old habits die hard: I sometimes ride the subway in NYC, and more than once I’ve offered my seat to an elderly or disabled person. The look of surprise is sad, really. It should be the norm! Not saying that I’m the only polite subway rider, just that it should be expected, not a shock.

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WillyNilly November 26, 2013 at 1:56 pm

I think the big problem is your passive aggressive question. You are asking ” is anyone sitting on that half of the bench?” but its not actually what you want answered – you can clearly see no one is sitting there. Say what you mean and mean what you say “”please move your bags so I can sit” or even “before I move these, are they yours?” I have lived in NYC for decades and taken public transit regularly – seats are at a premium – if you want a seat you need to be very clear and you will always get your seat over ‘stuff’ but if you are vague and passive and wishy-washy you will be promptly ignored. Being direct is not rude or weak, its simply being direct.

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JWH November 26, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Use the bull rush maneuver.

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Lilac November 26, 2013 at 2:28 pm

“I’m absolutely certain that mothers will point out that their child has as much right as you to sit on a bench. Dogs not so much but really, I dare you to tell some mom to pick up her kid and get it on her knee because you deserve to sit more”

I agree. Children are individuals, not automatic extensions of their parents and are certainly entitled to sit on a bench next to someone and not on a lap. That being said it would be nice for the parent to free up the seat if possible and they should take a hard look at the situation eg. crowded bus, age of person needing seat, etc. But sometimes holding a squirming toddler while consulting a map, eating, or doing other tasks makes it not possible. Also, the idea that a 5 year old should be required to sit on a lap on a bus is way out there. Five year olds can be pretty darn big and heavy and don’t usually lap sit anymore–especially in public. And if they were charged a fare then they have paid for a seat if a seat was available when they boarded.

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helen-louise November 26, 2013 at 2:30 pm

*grins at OP*

I think the problem is that an awful lot of geeks are people who require direct communication. You’re coming from what is considered polite in mundane space, i.e. indirect communication, and that won’t work here. You ask “Is this seat taken?” and the geek snorts at you, because it should be blindingly obvious to both of you that it isn’t, so why are you even asking?

Instead try phrases like “Please would you move your bags so I can sit for a while? I promise not to talk unless you want me to.” Nice, direct communication. You make it clear why you are disturbing the geek with your chatter, and what you expect them to do. Even someone who is very bad at interacting with other people can understand that.

I write this, by the way, as a geek myself :D

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Ergala November 26, 2013 at 4:04 pm

“. Same goes for dogs and very small children – the former can sit on the floor, the latter can sit on their mom’s knee”

I have really bad knees. One of them was fixed surgically the other I am now required to wear a brace all the time for the rest of my life. There is NO WAY I seating my 40+ lb 4 year old on my knees who likes to squirm, wiggle, bounce…nope he is going to sit right there on the seat. I hate it when people think children are less than human merely because they are small. My 7 year old has every right to sit in a chair out in public. If we are at home and have company yes I have him sit on the floor with his little brother, but usually my husband or I are already down there so that our guests can have a comfortable seat. I don’t understand why people think children have less rights than adults. They absolutely do not have less rights.

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Kate November 26, 2013 at 4:48 pm

This one really gets on my nerves! I catch public transport a lot, and my train line is one of the longest in my city – from start to finish the trip takes more than an hour for some people. It absolutely irritates me when I get on a packed train and see heaps of people standing, and some people taking up perfectly good seats with their bags.
This is the method I use:
Step 1: Pointed looks between empty seat and the bag owner. If they don’t get the hint, move to step 2.
Step 2: “Excuse me, do you mind if I sit here?”. If you encounter rudeness, move to step 3.
Step 3: “Oh, I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware your bag had paid for a seat. May I see its ticket?” (I’ve only used this once – I had a broken toe and was desperate to sit down and the person refused all polite requests to move their bag, and simply said “Nah, I want my bag here”).

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Kate November 26, 2013 at 4:52 pm

@Kahomono, I just read your comment to my husband (6′ tall and a larger guy) because he is exactly the same! He just LOOKS at people and they move their stuff for him to sit down. The funny thing is, he’s never been in a fight outside of the sports field, but people seem to be quite intimidated by him. I love catching public transport with him because nobody harasses me!

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Reboot November 26, 2013 at 6:55 pm

I’ll usually have my bag on the seat next to me on public transport – because of a few medical conditions, leaning over to get things off the floor can be tricky for me. HOWEVER, if the bus or train carriage starts filling up, of course I’ll shift it onto my lap when I notice or when I’m asked, whichever happens first. I don’t think putting bags on seats is necessarily an error, but refusing to move them when someone else needs the seat definitely is.

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Kate November 26, 2013 at 8:40 pm

I have to agree with Green123. As an adult who works hard to pay the bills I truly feel I have more of a right to sit than a child. Or a teenager for that matter. When I was a kid and a teenager I was taught that it was my duty to give my seat to adults who had been working all day.

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NostalgicGal November 26, 2013 at 8:52 pm

BTDT, many a con under my belt for all sorts of themes; ran games; sat dealer’s room and sold to the masses; etc.

If there is merchandise/belongings all over the bench, and my feet demand I get off them, I will politely ask “Excuse me, may I please sit down before I fall over?” said nicely; almost always gets a few bags moved for me so I can do so. And a “Thank you” with a smile after parking. I don’t give them the option of anything else they can construe about it. If it does happen to be ‘saved’ I will then ask, “May I use it then until they arrive, please?” And indeed usually get to warm the seat for a few to several minutes until the save-ee gets there.

Some of those conventions are a person’s vacation. They have saved all year, this is the high spot of their life. They are going to hit the dealer’s room and otherwise do what they’ve anticipated all year. Don’t you dare touch or move their bags; some of that may have been dear to the pocketbook and/or fragile and/or irreplaceable. It may not be properly packed and woe if you put a wrinkle in someone’s signed poster, that they stood in line for hours and paid for the personage to sign it.

I’ve been out of the circuit for some years, and if I were to go back I would spend the extra and get one of those folding walkers with a seat for doing the con if I’m walking the place and not sitting table. (attending versus working). That way I’m guaranteed a place to park mine if needed, and something to hold my stuff if I’m not needing to sit. And I could always find a corner or out of the main stream flows to sit then.

By same token, your aircraft carrier sized kid stroller needs to be banned. They’re a pox in any place that’s less than six feet wide. You have the right to have one to keep kid or kids and their stuff and yours all together; but also, realize, that everything does NOT have to be able to pass that thing. I make sure there’s wheelchair space, and trust me there’s strollers larger than that out there. … I have had ones long enough to block my entire table from anyone being able to do business with me, as the mother stands at the corner and blathers to her friend; and seems very upset that I have to interrupt her to MOVE the obstruction. (sure lady, give me $5000 and I’ll fold up the tablecloth and fold up the table, you can pull it RIGHT IN HERE and I’ll go home. If not, I am trying to earn a living here and several people went by and will not be coming back because you decided my 6-8′ of frontage is your private parking space)

Good Luck OP

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Owls Well November 26, 2013 at 10:30 pm

We have this same problem in Singapore, except that it’s usually due to people reserving seats for an unspecified period of time (perhaps even a couple of hours) and leaving one person behind to act as sentry.

Normally, I’ll just ask if I can sit there until the bag owners return and then scootch the bag(s) over to make space for myself without waiting for an answer whilst smiling at the sentry in a reassuring manner. Of course, if the bag owners return to roost, I’ll vacate the seat, but this rarely happens as if anyone does return, it’s usually to relieve the sentry.

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The Elf November 27, 2013 at 7:58 am

That’s some bad luck, Ashley! I’ve taken quite a few breaks at Gencon on the second floor. It’s the best spot (for me) to chill for a 15-30 minutes before tackling the crowds again. I hate crowds.

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Ergala November 27, 2013 at 9:13 am

“As an adult who works hard to pay the bills I truly feel I have more of a right to sit than a child”

That makes me incredibly sad and annoyed. Children cannot work at a regular bill paying job. However they still have to go to school, do chores if they have any and pretty much tolerate being looked at as a small extension of their parents. If my 7 year old is sitting on a seat on the bus I’m not moving him. If the person is elderly, disabled or pregnant yes I will move over even more but I will not make him stand up. Not to mention I’d be afraid if the brakes were suddenly hit he’d go flying onto the floor or into other people while standing. It’s not just matter of principal but also a matter of safety. Small children tend to become missiles. I have never asked someone to have their child move just because I wanted to sit down. Especially when I was perfectly capable of standing. Now I can’t as well on a moving vehicle because of my leg, but that doesn’t mean I am more entitled to a seat.

Like I said before, in public my kids have just as much right to sit as you do. At home though I make them sit on the floor if we have company. My floor is clean and they tend to sit on the floor anyways. We have very limited seating in our living room so my husband and I opt to sit on the floor as well so our guests can sit on the couch. It means I can’t get up as well but that’s fine, I still manage to do it. Or my husband gets me a dining room chair to sit on.

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Rap November 27, 2013 at 9:50 am

“I think the problem is that an awful lot of geeks are people who require direct communication. You’re coming from what is considered polite in mundane space, i.e. indirect communication, and that won’t work here. You ask “Is this seat taken?” and the geek snorts at you, because it should be blindingly obvious to both of you that it isn’t, so why are you even asking?”

Yeah, and thats a stereotype of geeks that I really loathe. If you’re smart enough to snort in derision, you’re also smart enough to understand the indirect communication, and you’re also smart enough to know “It should be blindly obvious my bags aren’t people” is going to come off arrogant and rude.

I know helen louise meant this with humor, but I have run into enough genuinely arrogant and nasty people at gaming and scifi cons, and also enough genuinely kind and polite people, that the geek excuse gets old.

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pdolly November 27, 2013 at 11:03 am

Regarding the child seating situation :

No one is saying children are property or less than human or whatever other nonsense some people have jumped to in their minds. But very small children can *usually* sit comfortably on an adults lap. Then everyone in the situation gets a seat (parent/child/other traveller).

Anyone who is capable of sitting their child in their lap when seats are scarce but decides not to in order to prove some kind of point is being, quite frankly, ridiculous.

It’s not like anyone demanded they be stored under the seat or anything. Just that *everyone* gets to sit down.

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Rap November 27, 2013 at 1:51 pm

pdolly – I don’t disagree with you. My point is that many parents these days will not consider polite to be told to put their child on their knee. I know the poster I initially responded to said it was a law in the UK… its not a law here and the way some parents are these days, telling a parent to get his or her kid on their lap so you can sit is likely to result in a parent noting how they paid for little Johnny’s seat and got there first.

I assure you, some parents do interprete “your child and your bag should be in your lap” as calling their child stowable property.

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Ergala November 27, 2013 at 2:47 pm

But who is it comfortable for? Kids have boney little butts and they don’t tend to sit still. If someone paid for a seat for their child they every single right to have their child sit there. If you insist on sitting in that seat then I suggest paying the parent for it. I absolutely loathe the people who don’t seem to understand that. Not everyone can have their child sit on their lap, and I shouldn’t have to explain that I can’t due to my own medical issue. A simple “I’m sorry I can’t have him sit on my lap” should be enough without me getting an eye roll or hairy eyeball shot in my direction. Quite frankly it’s nobody’s business and I hate feeling like I have to justify why I said no.

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Snowy November 27, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Somehow, the original reference to “very small children” has now been expanded to 5- and 7-year-olds, and everyone’s jimmies are getting rustled. If you back up just a touch, you’ll realize that Green123 was not talking about your 9-year-olds. No one expects you to hold your 11-year-old on your lap, but– Wait, sorry, the age keeps going up. :D

I don’t think anyone expects your 5 year old to be on your lap all the time, but the truth is most five year olds have a lot more stamina for standing than adults, and while they don’t have to be on Mom’s lap, if they can safely stand, they could cede the seat to that woman with her grocery bags, the elderly couple, or the man who is clearly coming home from a long day at work. This also instills good manners in them.

Likewise, if you do have your child next to you on a bench, make sure they take up their fair share, and nothing more. Quite a few times I’ve seen a whole bench taken up by a parent and child as the child sits far from her and sprawls out, or stretches out to play with toys. No one wants to sit between the two (because that’d be weird), but if Junior is flopping around and taking up enough space for the one, two, or three adults who need seating, then Parent needs to pull Junior close to their side and make room for others to sit.

Additionally, I think it goes without saying that if you can’t hold your eighteen-month-old because of a medical reason or disability, that’s understandable. (My own mother had this problem.)

No one thinks your child is a pet, or luggage. I promise!

Likewise, in a limited-seating situation, when ANY two people sit on a five-person bench in a way that makes it impossible for anyone else to sit, it’s annoying. It’s possible!

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Anna November 27, 2013 at 8:45 pm

Lilac said:

“And if they were charged a fare then they have paid for a seat if a seat was available when they boarded.”

No, they paid for passage on the bus/ train etc when they boarded. The parent is still getting what s/he paid for if the child sits on a lap.

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Whodunit November 27, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Nothing really to add to this except this drives me crazy everywhere!! We went to Disney world once and there was no where to sit and rest! It was infuriating! I wound like to start a campaign to get parks, stores and other places to start putting out chairs for people to rest .

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Kate November 27, 2013 at 11:13 pm

I am sorry to hear that people are assuming that I think that children = baggage, but that is simply not true.

First I feel that the whole safety issue of “small missiles” is a red herring. Buses don’t have seatbelts because they don’t go very fast and even coming to a sudden stop there isn’t going to be much danger. In addition, wouldn’t a standing adult in your scenario make for a much more dangerous “missile”? What if you are an adult the same size as a child? I have encountered many 9, 10, 11 year olds as tall as adult women. That’s if you want to split hairs at least, which I think the whole “missile” angle to this discussion does. As a last consideration, no one says that a kid who is standing has to stand all by themselves. Their parents can hold them or keep a hand on their shoulder, just in case a “missile” situation occurs. Frankly I don’t think a kid in a seat would do any better, they would hit the front of the seat, depending on where they are sitting, or the floor, or a standing person’s legs. The buses where I live have hard plastic seats.

Second, it makes me very sad and angry when I see parents who think they and their kid deserve to sit more than an elderly or pregnant person. I have actually seen many people who will sit in the seats at the front, which by law in our city, are meant for the disabled, elderly, and pregnant, and watch these people shuffle past trying to find a seat so they don’t have to struggle not to fall down while the bus is moving. A kid who is young enough to be unsteady standing can sit in a lap, barring parental disability, a kid who is old enough to be too heavy for a lap can stand. Eventually for these people someone kindly jumps up and gives up their seat.

Third I do think that children have rights. But I don’t think that “school” and “chores” are on the same level as working a 9 to 5 or working two jobs the same way adults do. School is by no means as strenuous as an adult’s job is. It is hard and stressful, certainly, but no kid has to worry about how to pay for food, or pay for rent. Sorry, but I think that confers certain privileges on adults that kids don’t get. Certainly kids get privileges that adults don’t and have restrictions adults don’t and vice versa.

Fourth, no one, unless they are riding the Greyhound bus line or a similar long distance transport bus, pays for their seat. They pay to be transported from one place to another, the seat is a bonus. In addition in many places children aren’t charged at all, or charged a reduced rate. Where I live kids under 7 don’t pay, and kids 7-18 are charged a reduced rate. So are elderly people. Meanwhile adults pay full price. I know that adults were kids and will be elderly, but that is exactly what I mean, you “pay your dues” in turn.

When I was a kid, the whole time I was standing for adults to sit and sitting in the back while adults got to sit in the front, you knew that one day you would be the adult and kids would be doing those things for you in return. I didn’t feel like “baggage” thank you very much, I didn’t feel like I had no rights or that I was an extension of my parents, I felt respect. I knew that part of being a kid was being free from most worry and responsibility and that when I was an adult I would have these burdens and the accompanying privileges, like spending my own money and making my own decisions. This was how you respected other people. You understood that someone who is elderly and has trouble walking, who is pregnant and is probably tired, and who has been working all day long, before you even woke up, might like to sit down.

For me, this is an issue of respect for others, not of kids vs adults, or thinking of kids as less than human.

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Firefly November 28, 2013 at 6:09 am

Kate, I’m curious. I’m 24, a college student, and unfortunately unemployed. Does your “adult with a job” privilege extend to my bus seat as well?

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SV November 28, 2013 at 7:37 am

” Excuse me – do you mind moving your bags so I could have a seat? ” Said with a smile to remove all aggressiveness, but with confidence. They’ll move their bags :)

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Jaxsue November 28, 2013 at 8:58 am

Re: kids paying fare on public transit. In NYC up to 3 kids, 44″ or shorter, can ride free with a fare-paying adult. So the argument that a small child pays for a seat doesn’t always apply.
I agree with the PP who said that the age we’re discussing keeps going up! In my original comment I was picturing children up to 3-yrs-old at the most. And if you have a medical condition that prevents you from holding a child, that is a special situation.

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Enna November 28, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Just ask, “please can I sit down?” All what you could do is tell venue staff. On trains the staff always announce on the intercom “please move luggage from spare seats so passengers can sit down”.

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NostalgicGal November 29, 2013 at 1:59 am

@Kate,
The times I’ve had to take public transport, AND haul something that I wanted to put on a seat (i.e., cats in carriers, going to or from the vet) I paid fares for the carriers and got transfer slips; which would only be issued IF there was a fare paid, one per fare. I only had once that someone challenged it, and I held out three transfer slips, for myself and the two carriers. Yes they had paid fares; the carriers had paid for the seat they were on.

I also rode public transportation with broken little toes, this prevented me from being able to stand or take any sway; getting up to give someone else my seat wasn’t going to happen (I usually would if I am healthy) as it meant 2-3 days of me taking major painkillers after that… having to show someone that I had one or two splinted toes to not get harassed for not getting up; has also happened.

Back to the original; asking “May I please sit down before I fall down?” politely has gotten me the seat most of the time. Usually at conventions; and I let them move their possessions, I don’t touch them. I don’t know what priceless relic they have in their bags and I am not going to go there, if that item is less than perfect when they get home. A purse using a seat is not a valid use of the seat; a person using it is. If it is a space that one must pay for (such as bus, trolley or train) then I pay for the item as if it was a paying PERSON and get proof that a fare was paid. A carrier with a live animal needs a fare, my purse or backpack does NOT, as it doesn’t deserve a seat.

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The Elf November 29, 2013 at 7:55 am

That would be a losing campaign, Whodunit. Those amusement parks, stores, and convention centers exist to make money. A resting customer is not spending money and benches cost money to install and maintain. I agree with you in principle; I’ve occassionally wished for a spot to rest my butt too. But realistically, it’s only going to happen if the owner of the space thinks it would increase profits.

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