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Urban Etiquette

Ellen Vanstone answers your questions about the annoying behaviours, poor manners and impatient encounters that dot the days of a city dweller.

Ellen Vanstone on the top 10 transit etiquette breaches

From feet on the seats to eating breakfast on the bus, here is how to avoid being bad company for your fellow commuters.

Ani Castillo

Judging by the mailbag here at Metro, our nation’s public transit systems are filled with people who don’t have the first clue about proper etiquette. It’s almost as if they don’t care about the comfort and safety of their fellow riders! Here is a handy Top Ten list of reminders for readers who do care.

1. Think of your backpack as a precious baby, that you want to hug to your chest and protect from the bumps and bruises of fellow riders. Do not think of this baby as a small lumpy weapon strapped to your back in order to whack surrounding passengers.

2. Keep your feet off the furniture. Those big boots of yours might impress some, but most of us will only be reminded of animals, like the ones you grew up with in a barn, and the dogs and pigeons whose sidewalk-poop particles you are now distributing onto seats shared by all.

3. Keep your business to your self. We’re not impressed that you own a cellphone, and we don’t want your loud conversation ringing in our ears while we try to mind our own business.

4. One ticket = one seat. Don’t take up two seats with your bags and belongings. Don’t take up 1½ seats with your elbows or sad addiction to manspreading.

5. Stand up and offer your seat when you see a parent struggling with small children, or a pre-parent struggling with a giant, unwieldy belly, or an older, infirm person, or any other kind of incapacitated fellow human being who needs that seat more than you do.

6. Stand aside if you’re near the doors and not getting off. Don’t block the exit doors.

7. Sit down rather than hover over an empty seat, preventing anyone else from using it.

8. Nibble discreetly on some inert comestible if you must. Please refrain from chowing down on a dripping, reeking burrito, half of which ends up on your clothes or the floor. It’s hard to watch let alone smell.

9. Wash irritating chemicals off your body when going in public. Though your “eau de Pepé Le Pew” may smell marginally better than the warm, pungent sushi being scarfed down in the seat next to you, nobody really wants your artificial fragrance up their nostrils and bringing tears to their eyes. And if this appeal to consideration doesn’t convince you, note that perfume, like plastic, is increasingly passé.

10. Move to the back. This is a strange one and we’ve all done it — we cluster near the front like mad drunks at a kitchen party, happy to be crushed in a crowd rather than retire to the thinly populated regions of the living room, or back of the bus. It’s a human impulse. But as overpowering human impulses go, this is one of the easier ones to master. So disengage from the crowd, be the rugged individualist we know you can be, and lead the masses to space salvation at the rear!

It’s these small acts of heroism that may save us all in the end.

Need advice? Email Ellen:

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