General Etiquette > Life...in general

Using a spare seat on a train

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Victim Of Fate:
Okay, so this happened at the weekend, and I'm not sure who was in the right here.

I was on a train from Paris to London. The Eurostar service doesn't stop anywhere else, so once the train has been boarded, there will be no further passengers. In my carriage, the seats were arranged so that there were three seats per "row", with one separated from the other two by the aisle. Seats alternate facing the front and back of the train, so that each seat has one opposite it, on the other side of a table. Not sure if I've described that accurately, so here's a rudimentary diagram:

[b  ][  ][  ]
[a  ][  ][  ]

[m  ][  ][  ]

This particular carriage, there were relatively few passengers - just enough for each passenger to have their own seat and the one opposite them. I am sat where the "m" is, and there are two passengers who sat at "a" and "b". There is room for luggage either at the end of the carriage for large cases, or on a shelf above the seats for hand luggage. Alternatively, as everyone had a second seat, people had space to put purses, small bags on the seat opposite.

The journey is around 2 hours, and I had a nap about a half hour in. I woke up about twenty minutes later, and noticed that passenger "a" had put her bag on the seat opposite me. She also had a carrier bag on the seat opposite her. I leaned over and asked her if that was her bag, and the following conversation took place:

"Oh, yes. Is it bothering you?"
"Um... well. Couldn't you put it somewhere else?"
"...I suppose..."

She then put the bag on the seat opposite her.

Now, was she rude for putting the bag on the seat opposite me? Technically, it was a spare seat, but there was a tacit convention that as there were only half as many passengers as seats each passenger also "owned" the seat opposite them. Was I rude? I wasn't using the seat, and was asleep for most of the journey, but it was just kind of bothering me that she'd put her bag there without asking me. I did also utilise the seat later when I went to get something from my own bag, which was on the shelf.

Another Sarah:
I don't think you were rude, no.
But I also don't think you "owned" that seat, even in an unspoken way.
You were asleep, she already had something on the seat opposite her, so she used an empty space. I don't think it's especially polite to spread everything you own around a train carriage, but why on earth should she wake you up and ask you for permission?

Possum:
I'm slightly confused, but I think it's a terminology thing.  When you say "the seat opposite," to me, that's the seat facing.  I think you're meaning the one beside you, on the other side of the little table, right?  I hope so, because otherwise, I'm wondering why you're holding each other's bags! ;D

You do not own any seat but the one your bum is planted in, but I understand the social contract about having control over the seat beside you.  It may not have been a direct inconvenience to you to have the bag in the seat on your row, and maybe no one wanted to sit there, but it wasn't polite of her to take up two spare seats, period, and it's rather odd to just put your bag beside a stranger.  I would not want to feel responsible for a stranger's belongings--especially if she's got something bad in there, and someone finds out, or if she claims something has gone missing.

Victim Of Fate:

--- Quote from: Possum on March 27, 2014, 10:38:48 AM ---I'm slightly confused, but I think it's a terminology thing.  When you say "the seat opposite," to me, that's the seat facing.  I think you're meaning the one beside you, on the other side of the little table, right?  I hope so, because otherwise, I'm wondering why you're holding each other's bags! ;D

You do not own any seat but the one your bum is planted in, but I understand the social contract about having control over the seat beside you.  It may not have been a direct inconvenience to you to have the bag in the seat on your row, and maybe no one wanted to sit there, but it wasn't polite of her to take up two spare seats, period, and it's rather odd to just put your bag beside a stranger.  I would not want to feel responsible for a stranger's belongings--especially if she's got something bad in there, and someone finds out, or if she claims something has gone missing.

--- End quote ---

No, I mean the seat facing. So she put her bag on the seat facing me, while also having another bag (a small one) on the seat facing her. I know you don't technically have ownership of any seat but the one you're in, but at the same time, there was a clear convention on that carriage, as every passenger had a spare seat facing them, there were guaranteed to be no more passengers, and most passengers were using those seats for storage space. What annoyed me was that she had basically claimed ownership of that seat. I mean, if we're going to say that people have no ownership of any seat other than their own, surely passengers shouldn't be putting their bags on any spare seats?

auntmeegs:
I am completely baffled as to why you cared that her bag was on the seat opposite you.  Can you clarify why this bothered you? 

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