Why I will now always prefer single seats on trains

So, I'm on the train to London, and this guy to the left of me is falling asleep.

On me.

And there's an hour and a quarter to go before we reach our destination, so he's going nowhere fast.

He's obviously finding my pudgy little upper arm extremely comfortable, snuggling in with his equally pudgy little head as though his head and my arm were made for each other, sisters and brothers, la la la.

These strategies to get him off my arm did not work:

  • coughing and trying to pronounce it, 'I MIGHT have swine flu'
  • turning the pages of my book in as dramatic and rustly a way as possible as though it were the Encyclopaedia Brittanica and not Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' (oh, the irony!!!)
  • leaning over to the left myself until he was vertical, then pulling away quickly
  • taking a mega-sigh which involved my whole body (and his)
  • wriggling as far as I could towards the window without his head actually falling into my lap and causing a far more worrying situation
In each of these cases, he just briefly moved his head and repositioned himself a little as though to say, 'Darling, sweetheart, don't, I was just getting comfy'.
Is there an etiquette about these things? Is one free to tap him on the head and say, 'Look, pal, you either take your greasy nut off my nice clean arm or I'll shower it with my leftover crisps?' or can one decently hold a pair of nail scissors to his throat or can one shout, 'There is a MAN on my ARM' without causing confusion that you'd shouted 'There is an MAN! He is ARMED!' and starting a national emergency?
Perhaps you think I'm uncaring. Perhaps I should've woken him gently and said, 'Hey, old chap. You seem a little uncomfortable there. Why don't I just stand in the aisle for the next hour so you can lie horizontal? And would you like a bedtime story? A lullaby? Here, let me take off your shoes for you .. No, no, it's no trouble.'
In what other situation in life would someone feel free to fall asleep on a complete stranger's shoulder? At the bus stop? In the library? At the movies? By clambering into someone's car at the drive-in McDonald's and saying, 'You don't mind if I take forty winks on your nice padded arm, now, do you? I've had SUCH a day.'?
When we got to London, and he'd had a lovely nap, and I'd read a lot less of my book than I would have done, and been a lot less relaxed than I would have been, and had a dimple in my upper arm I wouldn't have had, he woke at the very last minute, stretched his arms into the air, and yawned luxuriously. I know I should have said, 'Good morning, honeybun. Sleep well?' but I didn't.
I think he had no idea at all what he'd been doing. So that would have taken a LOT of explaining.


  1. Well, I know in the future that I should NOT eat and read your blog at the same time. Laughing and chewing equals big mess on keyboard, plus some rather unlady like coughing and sputtering from choking. LOL!

    Returning the stop by. Love it. Think I'll stick around...

  2. Yay! Welcome, Hillbilly. Hope you managed to clean up the keyboard. (Why doesn't someone invent giant floss for this?)

  3. I've said it before. I just love your train and bus adventures. Please write a book on this subject...

  4. Thanks, A. I must start writing up the things that happen to me when I'm merely walking along the street. Perhaps I should just stop leaving the house altogether.

  5. Oh, but if he had woken up, realised he had been leaning on you and apologised profusely, you would have had to suck it in and say noooo, no trouble, honestlyyy, I was QUITE comfortable, reaallyy!

  6. Or, Hillel, I could have said, 'No, it's fine - it's just a shame that my husband, that big wrestler-type guy across the aisle, couldn't get to sit down ...'

  7. Oh how funny!
    Next time, take out your tweezers and either pluck one head hair out at a time, or pluck his eyebrows into a womanly shape. He will either be awakened, bald or reallllllly pretty at the end of the trip!

  8. Retired One - thanks for the advice. I will remember to pack tweezers for the next trip.

  9. C.J. Keller30/5/09 12:14

    I have this "contact with strangers' skin" phobia so I cannot believe how much I'm laughing while also being completly disgusted. I didn't know I could laugh and grimace at the same time.
    This is totally unrelated-- unless riding the train (or subway) contributes to teachers being assigned to a rubber room-- but as a teacher you may have some interest in a "This American Life" segment I just cannot get out of my own head. It's so bizarre. It's a story about how school authorities punish teachers in New York. I've since read these rubber rooms can also be found in San Francisco and probably are in other large cities as well. You can listen to it at http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=1286

  10. Thanks, CJ. I wouldn't say not wanting contact with a stranger's skin is a phobia. I'd say that's just normal. Depending on what bit of skin, I guess.


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