Beat the rush-hour crush

Apr 07 2005 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Didn’t manage to get a seat on the tube or train today? In a foul mood as a result? Then a new book on how to grab that newly vacated seat is just for you, according to today Times newspaper.

The book, Sit Down on a Commuter Train!, has been written for workers in Japan – where rail staff are employed to shove people in the door because the trains get so crowded.

It began life as a blog by Tokyo printworker Hajime Yorozu, but should be just as applicable, we think, to the British commuter.

Here’s what, says the Times, Hajime suggests:

"Watch people’s eyes very closely,” he says. “Glances at a watch or station name are promising signs. People about to leave their seats will generally tend to uncross their legs, move their bags upright on their laps, or search in their pockets for a bookmark."

Apparently, women in Japan groom themselves for most of the journey to work — therefore a woman who has arrived at the final task of fixing her hair is almost certainly getting ready to disembark.

Another giveaway is how commuters sleep. Snoozers facing straight ahead are probably just resting their eyes and will therefore be most likely to get off soon. Stand next to their seat, but not directly in front, leaving a passage for them to get to the door and for you to block seat predators from the reverse angle.

Conversely, people sleeping with faces turned upwards — especially with their mouths open — should be avoided as they will almost certainly still be in their seats by the end of the line. It is also important to eavesdrop on mobile phone conversations for remarks like “I’ll be there in five minutes”.

While close human observation is vital, Mr Yorozu insists that “the mastery of the art of sitting down means first mastering the art of queueing”.

Japanese stations mark out the positions of the train doors on the platforms and formal queues for trains are the norm. Resist the temptation to head for the edges, he says. Stick to the centre of the queue as that will give you more room for manoeuvre inside the carriage and increase seat-probability by about 30 per cent.

Mr Yorozu’s final advice is to take notes on fellow commuters. “Passenger memo cards” are helpfully included with the book.

The Times | A blogger's top tips on how to pinch a seat on the train