AIBU to ignore social distancing rules on a super-crowded train?

Okay, so I was on a train journey coming back from the beach to the city on a hot sunny weekend. The previous train had been cancelled and so this train was PACKED! My friend and I waited on the busy platform scared we weren’t gonna get on the train, but we managed to align ourselves to the doors and were the first on the carriage, we even managed to score a couple of seats! Score!

Within seconds the carriage was packed, every seat taken, people scrunched up together. Obviously social distancing was impossible, but with vaccination rates in the UK going well, no one seemed to mind. Except one woman who tapped my friend in his new seat on the shoulder and said:

“So, I guess we aren’t social distancing anymore?”

My friend is the confrontational sort, so he simply stood up and this woman placed her bag on the seat next to her to enforce some semblance of social distancing.

I looked over the carriage and as far as I could see, she was the only one doing this.

Other people boarded and tried to get the seat and she still held her ground. Some argued that if she was really concerned about social distancing on a popular beach route on a sunny weekend she should have booked a first class ticket or taken a taxi, but she just ignored them all and kept her hand on her bag.

Am I being unreasonable to expect that in some situations, like on a packed weekend train, social distancing just can’t be maintained? Or should she have been allowed to demand social distancing despite it being practically impossible?


Given the population density in super-crowded urban transport (buses, trains et al.) social distancing (i thought the term had been replaced with physical distancing?) is physically impossible. And yes, the woman was being unreasonable. Were I in there, I would’ve physically removed the bag from the seat and sat down.


Is physical distancing the term to be used now? I didn’t know. Thanks!

Yeah apparently people weren’t getting the whole “social distancing” thing, so they had to be more literal with the term; “Physical distancing”.

If we still don’t get that, then next up is “get the hell away from me distancing.”

Pretty unreasonable expectation in a crowded public transportation though.


My experience on packed Tokyo trains is that it’s up to you to get the distance you feel safe with.

I have let trains go by because they were too crowded and I didn’t want to be that close to people. I choose seats far from others so I can socially distance.

If the lady wanted more distance she should have gotten up and moved away herself, not taken up a seat with her bag. That doesn’t create meaningful distance in terms of airflow on a crowded train. It’s inherently not possible to stay 2m from others on public transit, that’s why we’ve been asked to stay home.


As a person who travels on the train a lot, when it’s rush hour there’s not a lot you can do. Of course I’ve seen a lot of people on the trains who openly refuse to wear a mask even though the law says they have to.

In this case, I would say you aren’t being unreasonable. There was nothing you could do. It was just one of those situations.


Is physical distancing the term to be used now? I didn’t know. Thanks!

many people thought social distancing was a misnomer, because it implies one should lessen social interactions with other people, which is not the point at all.   One can socialize with other people just fine over the Internet.   Or over the phone, FTM.   The point is putting physical space between two bodies.


Yeah that makes more literal sense. With so much socialising taking place online these days that is a pretty big misnomer.


I only wonder what’ll happen once the trains reopen in Mumbai, India. The density of the crowds in the trains here is so much they had to invent a new level of peak hour crowding: the super dense crush load. (This story explains that level in numbers.)

Train travel has been banned for non-essential personnel since the first lockdown started in March 2020. Since then, they opened it to the general public once, in early Feb 2021. And two weeks later, the second wave started peaking.

Next week onwards the trains open again but only for those who are fully vaccinated. Hoping for the best.

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Oof that has got to be so tough for people in India. I can only imagine trying to get around when you used to rely on the trains. But those crowds are no joke, I’ve seen videos and photos of people hanging off the sides of the car and every thing, there is no way you wouldn’t spread it!

Especially in countries with big gaps between the rich and poor, it’s important for the govt to take big precautions imo. Brazil is another tragic case where it spreads rapidly among people with few resources to protect themselves. I read about the Amazon basin, doctors traveling along the river to visit sick were also bringing the disease with them :persevere:


Exactly. Everyone has to get to work, and if you complain about other people being on the train then you sound pretty entitled to me! It’s not YOUR train. Get a taxi, or drive yourself if it’s bothering you that much.

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To be fair you don’t need India-level density to spread the virus, any crowded train will do the job. As a regular user of crowded metro systems in London and New York I know those places will be just as dangerous without the need for people to hang off the sides of the trains like I have seen in footage from India.


Yes, but I think the biggest unreasonable-ness (That’s a word. I just created it) is the train company allowing the train to overfill. Over here they reduced the number of people allowed on a train and bus and every second seat was “reserved”.

Remember that the chance of spreading CV-19 goes up when you are all enclosed in a tin can like sardines.

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I remember once about 14, 15 years ago in 2018 being on a crowded train coming home from (city). It’s was packed beause the one train had been delayed an hour and during that hour a game had finished. Like a condutor broke up a fight in our crowded train car of two drunkards and warned if they kept fighting they got thrown out of the train. Which happened at the very next stop. When we (Mom and I) got closer to home at another train station, the train driver saw a body on the platform. I guess they send someone out and then the person came back and the driver or someone asked for Doctors or other people who could help and 2 people in the car (who I recognized as my peers)- got op and left the car. One of my GFs said her (then-boyfriend, now hubby) was on the same train car as Mom and I.

The term social distancing originally means that you’re supposed to keep a distance while having social interactions.
The problem is how the word “distance”, itself, is understood. In a literal sense, it’s physical distance, but in the English language (and probably some others) it’s more frequently associated to emotional distance. So it’s not exactly a misnomer, but an expression that was easily misunderstood, which made some people uncomfortable.
The change is, in my opinion, unnecessary, and I don’t really like “physical distancing” bc it implies you have to be distant from everyone, but in reality you’re going to be (physically) close to people who live with you and distant from people you only have social interactions with.

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Not just Mumbai. Pretty much any big city in India—Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai et al.—is the same in this.

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I’m planning on going to Birmingham tomorrow. I’ll probably take the bus as even though it will take longer, there’s better ventilation (by that, I mean it has windows that open!)

Not sure exactly what I’ll be doing there… probably a bit of canal walking and maybe popping into my favourite music shop to play on their amazing pianos and keyboard…

When I went to London for a few days last September, I was surprised how empty the tube was. My coworker regularly goes to London and says the tube is betting back to the Before Times level of crowdedness

In England, the Prime Minister was bored about all the coronavirus precautions, he wanted the rules over so he cancelled them. Here’s something from “London North Eastern” trains:
“Social distancing on trains. Please be aware that at busier times you may be sat next to another passenger.”

So no you aren’t doing social distancing any more “at busier times”. Not since 26th July anyway.

At least you won’t be sat next to the Prime Minister, he won’t be seen dead on public transport. As beautiful as those words are.

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Not unreasonable at all, to me. You better believe no one was thinking about social distancing on the airport bus leaving the airport back in July, there were just too many people needing to get from one spot to another. The same would be true of a crowded train. Besides, the people in front of and behind that woman wouldn’t have been uch farther away, so what was the point of trying to keep the seat next to her empty?