A treaty of platform protocol

I don’t mind commuting, especially by train. The ride is relatively smooth, I usually get a seat, and I can use my time to read, write, or play Solitaire on my phone. In fact, the only thing spoiling my daily journey is the people.

People are stupid. They may, individually, be of various levels of intelligence, but put any number of people together, especially in public, and the intelligence of the group will drop like Lady Caca’s panties in a nightclub toilet. It’s a well known fact: the intelligence of any group is equal to the intelligence of its least intelligent individual divided by the number of individuals. This is especially true when it comes to public transport. In fact any sitiation where several people are moving around.

Remember those nature documentaries you used to watch as a kid before you realised they weren’t cool, and that you secretly still watch on sick days or when no-one else is around? Ok, now, remember how beautiful and graceful those shoals of fish were, hundreds of thousands of individual fishes moving as if they were part of a single organism, curving smoothly out of the way of that big whale shark and off round the coral reef? Well, humans don’t do that. When it comes to behaving in public, we are all dumber than the common sardine. Who’d have thought!

From a lengthy and most serious scientific observation of group behaviour in public, (involving much sighing, tutting and muttering “Oh for fuck’s sake!”) I think I may just know why this is. We think too much. And it’s no the right kind of thinking. It’s the kind of self-absorbed daydreaming that makes people wandering about, hands in pockets, head down, earphones firmly rammed in auditory canals, oblivious to everything outside their own private bubble of space. We all do it, I’m as guilty as anyone.

How hard can it be to just be aware of your surroundings? To notice that if you stand in a particular place, you’ll be in people’s way? To realise that there are not only people in front of you but all around you, even behind you? Well, here are a few… well, let’s call them guidelines, to behaving in public, and in this case on a station platform. I honestly fail to see why people don’t think of them by themselves, but they obviously don’t, so here goes.

  • The platform is only so wide. It’s not expandable. If everyone else is standing to one side to let others pass, it would probably be a good idea if you did too. In fact that’s the main rule: observe the social model in place and conform as much as possible. It’s just common sense.
    Practical example: Let’s assume that the platform is about wide enough for 3 people, against the wall is a row of people waiting, on the outer side is a line of people standing along the yellow line because their train is up next. down the middle is a free passage for people moving along the platform. there is room in both the inner and outer rows. Don’t pick a crowded spot and stand in the middle lane. That’s just breaking Wheaton’s Law.
  • Spitting in public is gross. Making a big deal and loud noise as you spit is worse. In fact, any emission of bodily fluids in public is gross. Just don’t.
  • Ok, so the station is a fairly open space, that still doesn’t mean you’re allowed to smoke outside of the smoking areas, it still stinks (the same goes for farts, by the way). And if you flick one more butt onto the tracks while standing less than an arm’s length from the nearest bin, I will smack you.
  • If you really have to have a phone conversation in an otherwise quiet place, keep your voice down and maybe do a bit of self editing. We don’t all want to hear the results of your colonoscopy, or listen to you brag to your friends about how “big” your lover is and how dumb your husband is for not finding out. True stories.
  • Don’t cross the yellow line until the train has stopped. Really. Don’t. You will die. Horribly. Oh, and mind the gap.
  • If you’re eating something that makes a lot of crumbs – well, first of all, just think what you look like! – but most importantly, drop the crumbs over the edge of the platform. The station mice aren’t going to feed themselves. Well, ok, maybe they are, but still, they deserve a treat.
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