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Seat Hogs, Beware! (But if you threaten to stab me I will probably just let you remain a Seat Hog.)

Apr 28, 2011

Ever since the story about Metro seat hogs came out in the Washington Post last summer, I have made it my personal mission to *gently* correct Seat Hogs.  Think of me (as I think of myself) as Metro Girl, Bringing Civility to the Commute One Seat Hog at a Time.

Man Hands and Justice for All!

The Seat Hog (almost as bad as the Left Side Escalator Stander) takes up two seats during rush hour or events that cause Metro trains to be crowded.  This is super inconsiderate not just because 1) people like to sit down, but 2) it encourages people to crowd doorways, which prevents others from getting on the Metro, which can cause people to have to wait for another train. Also, 3) the people who are packed onto the train and standing sometimes fall on each other because of the jerky trains (due to manual operation because of recent malfunctions that resulted in accidents), and if you have a long commute, having to stand is stressful and can cause injuries (or coffee spilling on your jacket, which may prompt a fellow rider to wipe it off you (read: your boob) and that can be very embarrassing for all involved). 

Some examples of Seat Hoggery include:

1) Spreading your legs so no one can squeeze in next to you.  You're not in your office, you're on public transportation.  It's not supposed to be comfortable.  If you need that much room then you should just stand.
"I'm texting a very important message so I can ignore you."

2) Falling asleep across two seats.  I've fallen asleep on the Metro many times.  You really only need one seat, by the window, where you can lean your head and others can utilize the seat next to you with ease.

"Metro naps are the BEST!"

Kudos to this guy with the mad takin-up-four-seats skillz!

3)  Using one seat for you bag.  You know how in airplanes you have to put your bag on the floor?  Consider it the same for the Metro.

"My Goach" (that's a fake Coach) "requires its own seat, thankyouverymuch."

4) Sitting in the outer seat.  Common courtesy calls for you to scoot to the inner seat if it's available.  There's not enough room for someone to climb over you, and most people who sit in the outer seat avert eye contact with those who want to sit down.  But I'm getting off at the next stop and I don't want to make someone else get out to let me out, you may think, assuming you're being polite.  You're not being polite.  You're being a jerk.  Stand up if your stop is next and you don't want to sit in the inner seat.

(No photo for you but I will paint you a picture in the story below.)

You should know that in any of these cases I will hover over you and stare you down until you acknowledge me.  If you don't acknowledge me I will say, "May I sit down?"  This has embarrassed many a friend and coworker, but you know what?  My ankle has been jacked up since last summer's attempts at exercise, and if there's a seat available, I'm sitting in it, daggommit! 

So two days ago when I saw a woman committing TWO Seat Hog crimes (3 and 4), I walked right over to her and stared her down.  She did not acknowledge me.  So I said, "May I sit down?"  She did not acknowledge me.  So I combined staring her down and repeating "May I sit down?" until she did. 

She sloooooowly turned her head up and her eyes sloooooowly met mine.  In hindsight I'm surprised her head didn't go ahead and turn all the way around and lasers didn't shoot out of her eyes to make my head explode.  But at this point I was blissfully unaware that she wanted to kill me, so I happily sat down as she scooted to the inner seat.  A couple of people standing beside us (Wonder why they're standing? This is a perfectly good seat! I thought) chuckled and looked away when I looked up at them. 

Then the Seat Hog began grumbling.  At first I couldn't make it out, but then I heard, "Imma be in the f***in' headlines tomorrow. You gonna f*** with my family?  S***."  She repeated this statement and grunted several times.  I wondered, Is she talking to me? Surely not, I haven't f***ed with her family.  Why would she be in the headlines?  Who would dare f*** with this woman's family? She is scary! Sure glad she isn't mad at me!

But as we sat there and I did my little Sudoku on my lap in my little floral skirt and little silver flats with little flowers on the toe without a little care in the world, I began to change my mind.  And when I caught the two people standing next to us smiling at me like You are such an idiot, I knew she was talking to me. 

Suddenly she pushed me out of the seat.  "I'M GETTIN' OUT!" she announced to the entire train, as my hand slapped the lady in front of me in the back of the head while I scrambled to catch my balance in the crowded aisle.  The Seat Hog didn't care.  She barelled on through the crowd as if I wasn't even there.  "I'm SO sorry!  I'm SO sorry!" I pleaded with the woman whose head I'd accidentally attacked (she looked pretty ticked at me too).  The Seat Hog continued to bellow "I'M GETTIN' OUT!"  We were nowhere near a stopping point, so this went on for a while. 

As soon as the train did stop and she indeed got out, several people around me laughed.  The guy who'd been watching the whole thing said, "If you can't laugh at this then you're not alive."  A woman jokingly explained to other riders, "That girl is so mean!  She should not have sat down when that woman clearly owned the seats!"  Another rider sat down next to me (I had scooted to the inner seat, of course) and promised to be nice.

As the nearby passengers chuckled and talked about what a crazy hose beast that woman was, I envisioned what would have happened if we'd sat there longer.  Would she have, as she claimed, gotten herself in the headlines tomorrow?  And if so, how would she have accomplished that?  By stabbing me, perhaps?  It would have been a feasible outcome.  There are no metal detectors in the Metro and few police, so she could have easily taken out a knife and cut me up.  And I'm not so sure the Laughing Standing Man would have intervened. 

But I got out okay so there's really no need to imagine how else she could have gotten herself in the headlines.

I did, however, make a doctor's appointment the next day to get my ankle checked out.  Time to get this thing on the mend so I can freely stand on the Metro and focus my Metro Girl efforts on other issues, like Loud Talkers. (You know who you are.)

P.S. Thanks to Unsuck DC Metro for the photos!


  1. Wow, Mary El! Way to make this topic hilarious! :) Did you know that Atlanta riders commit this crime, too.

    Stupid fake arthritis (or whatever I have) means that I really always should sit down, especially on buses which stop a lot (and equal Pearl flying all over the bus.) Unfortunately, I look way too young and skinny to look handicapped. I try to avoid crowded buses as much as possible (I take one to and from work), but my friends have taken to staring people down or (if that doesn't work), saying, Excuse me. Would you mind letting her have your seat?
    One good thing about Atlanta though is that seat hogs are still Southern. So they're nice. :)

  2. OMG, did this really happen?? SO funny!! I can't wait to hear a similar story after you reprimand a loud talker. They drive me crazy!

  3. I posted a comment yesterday about the loud talkers, but it didn't take. They drive me absolutely batshit --- batshit enough to shush someone (and I think shushing is almost as rude as talking loudly in confined spaces).

    I have shushed folks in movie theatres, but that's another topic altogether.

  4. Pearl, have you seen Apparently offenders are everywhere!

  5. Freckledk, loud talkers are soooooo annoying. But, like you, I believe shushing is equally bad, so I have only played that card once. It was 6:15 a.m. and a group of guys were yelling and laughing on the Metro. I told them to please keep it down as I hadn't had my coffee yet and they were giving me a migraine. And it worked! Of course I could tell they thought I was a total beyatch, but it was worth it.

  6. You should have been a writer for sienfield...

  7. The guy who spread his legs is the worse... it drives me insane. and when you do sit next to them they don't move an inch. so annoying.

  8. I absolutely can't stand people that take more than their share of seats! It's so annoying and inconsiderate. How can some people be so unaware of other people in the world?! Great blog! SO glad I found it today!

  9. I disagree with you on one point. I will not slide to the inner seat. I will gladly let people sit down there, but I do not want to be on the inside. Ever. Because that would require me to talk to strangers, "may I get up?" or "This is my stop." No. I don't like to get up until the train is at a complete stop and if I'm on the inside, I feel like I can't do that because I'd have to wait for your ass. Also, I'm tall and on buses and the metro, my knees jam into the seat in front. It's not that its uncomfortable, it can be downright painful when you come to abrupt stops and you're shoved all in there. So no. You be the one to have to be awkward and ask to get up. I'm not doing it. I'm going to spread my legs into the aisle. But I also won't begrudge anybody who wants to sit down. I will get up and let them in gladly.

  10. Hmm, I don't think you're disagreeing so much as admitting that you're a Seat Hog. On the Flip Side, we ALL must be vigilant to claim our rights to seats. So, as long as you respond to people who ask to sit down, I think you're okay. But if you ever deny me a seat I will stare you down and make you and everyone around you uncomfortable.