Henceforth and herewith is presented the ultimate league table of train seats (from best to worst) that you should use as a guide next time you travel:
1. Table seat to yourself: This is the holy grail and will only happen once or twice in a lifetime on long journeys (unless you live in Kyle of Lochalsh). If you find yourself in this situation you need to ensure you lay claim to the territory as quickly as possible. See if you can find a broadsheet newspaper to read. Use the multiple power points to charge your phone, tablet or indeed run a travel microwave off. Order everything off the trolley and have a three course meal. You get the idea.
2. Table seat shared with one other: The key here is not to sit directly opposite the other passenger; this allows you to stretch out without the horrifying prospect of accidentally touching the other person’s legs (see ‘Catastrophic English Social Conundrums, vol. 3, P114 – 117, Harper & Collins, July 2004’).
3. Airline seat to yourself: This can vary in quality depending on which type of train you’re on but most train operating companies seem to have got the message that at least some leg-room is a good idea.
4. Airline seat with someone next to you: This is ok, but can vary depending on whether you’re in the aisle or window seat. If you are in the window seat you could pursue the risky strategy of going to the shop / toilet / vestibule every five minutes in the hope that this may result in a promotion to number three on this list. If you’re sitting in the aisle seat however you should note that it’s not considered socially acceptable to use the wall socket to charge your phone, draping the cable over the other person’s legs.
5. Fold down seat in the vestibule: This is actually ok and preferable to items lower down the list. Don’t try and do this on commuter services to London though – you will be subconsciously lynched.
6. Table seat with three others (aisle): Cramped and awkward. The whole journey becomes a four-way game of chess for leg room and table space.
7. Standing: Underrated for short journeys but can get tiring on a three-hour inter-city trip. Mandatory on commuter services into London but with the added benefit that so many people are standing you don’t actually have to hold on to anything.
8. Table seat with three others (window): See point 6. but worse. Not for the claustrophobic. Saving grace is that you can spend the journey looking out the window (unless you’re in one of those weird Pendalino seats that doesn’t line up with any window).
9. Luggage Rack: Always an option but generally reserved for students going to festivals.
10. The toilet seat: Bad, bad, bad. Avoid at all costs. Usually smells something rotten and you suddenly become the toilet gatekeeper. Other passengers expect you to keep a log of the current status of the toilet and you’ll be asked questions such as ‘is anyone in there?’, ‘how does the door work?’ and ‘is this the toilet?’. (I am actually currently sat in the ‘toilet seat’ on a train to York and someone has just asked me that final question. I mean really? I was tempted to reply ‘no, it’s the lift to the menswear department’).
11. Walking: If it’s a nice day, why not walk to the next station? If it’s not a nice day, why not walk to the next station? (See blog entry from Thursday).
12. Any Seat On a Pacer: Just don’t do it. If you walk into a station and see one of those things you need to seriously ask yourself ‘is my journey really worth it?’ If the purpose of your journey is anything shy of saving the human race then no, it is not worth it. If you are saving the human race then good luck! If you survive the pacer experience please ensure you go and deal with the situation in Woking. Latest word is that average property prices have now dropped below the half-million mark.