true gripes seat-hoggers

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The Independent Online
If you ever travel by coach or train, you'll know them. They sit in the seat they have paid for, then spread their possessions all over the next seat so that no one else may use it. Even as the coach fills up, they bury their heads in their papers, or adopt an infuriating, absent look, as timid late-comers hover politely by the coat-laden seat, wondering if they dare ask to sit there.

On trains, seat-hoggers not only stake out their two-place territory with more paraphernalia than anyone should need on a journey, but spread their newspapers, lap-tops, mobile phones and Burger King bags on the table in front of them. If they are less prosperous, they will have a guitar, haversack or a week's washing on the seat beside them, a Walkman and several A4 files on the table and they will remove their shoes and put their smelly feet on the seat opposite.

Seat-hoggers are sublimely egocentric: they take the extra seat as their due. Most of them would happily see people standing, rather than give up the space they have taken. If asked to move their things, they do so with such bad grace that it is the newcomer who ends up apologising for wanting to sit down. I once asked a young man in a crowded railway carriage to move his guitar so that I could have a seat. "What the hell do you expect me to do with it?" he snarled. Believe me, I was tempted to tell him.

Then there are those who are simply too lazy to put their stuff in the luggage hold. Occasionally, they are shamed into getting their stuff out of the way so that people can get on and off the train or coach, but you can be sure they won't put it up on the parcel rack. Too much trouble.

But the most difficult seat-hoggers to dislodge are to be found on late- night transport. They spread themselves over two seats in order to sleep off the evening's excesses. Few people have the nerve to disturb a dormant passenger. I saw it done once, and in some style. A large man with a great shock of white hair and an outsized personality simply scooped up the pile of coats, scarves and sweaters on which the sleeper's head was resting, and flung them to one side. He pushed the sleeper upright and then dropped into the vacant seat, where he fell immediately into a deep and snoreful slumber. I suspect he was drunk, but oh, what a performance.