Does the newer bench style (right) on some subway cars help fit riders more comfortably?
One of my earliest exercises on AiP was a catalog of subway characters. Included in this list was the Squeezer: the person who tries to fit into a seat though there isn't room to comfortably accommodate the person and the people around him or her. Squeezers can be men or women, and fit or overweight. Essentially, the Squeezer sees an open space and believes that wedging himself into the space is fine even though the experience will not be a comfortable one. I've fallen victim to a Squeezer on a few occasions, and as a result, I admit that I do attempt to expand and occupy all of my seat space rather than withdrawing and making myself as small as possible, which seems to encourage Squeezers. I've also realized that Squeezers are more common on the older trains (above left) where the seats are delineated by an orange border. On newer trains that employ a single unbroken bench for seats, people are far less likely to squeeze into a space that they cannot fit into. Are the newer benches less sizest? Is sizism even a factor here? What are the pros and cons of these different types of seats?
Because the orange seats of the older cars on the 2 and 3 lines are actually recognizably seats, people may view the open space and think, "Well a seat is open" and attempt to squeeze themselves in. Larger passengers tend to stand out in these cases because they cannot easily fit into the confines of the defined seat. With the newer bench style seats, the space available for seating is a bit more subjective—though may require some negotiating (i.e., saying excuse me to get people to shift and free more space). However, these seats encourage Sprawlers—riders who feel it's necessary to spread out, giving open legs and their packages extra space at the expense of other passengers. Still, in the image above people are more likely to claim the orange seat than a place on the bench. Why?
Perhaps the definition of the orange seat helps provide riders with a physical sense of personal space. It provides parameters for negotiating space in the public domain. But what happens if you need more personal space than the orange seats allow? In this regard, the orange seats impose a norm—they suggest that within those orange borders an individual will be comfortable. If more space is needed, the individual falls outside of the norms, and may be subject to ridicule or ostracism is some form. This only seems to be the case if the individual needs more space as a result of being overweight. Moms struggling with infants, for example, are sometimes given the benefit of extra seat without too much of a fuss so that the struggling toddler or infant can flail freely. In these instances, fellow passengers seem far more tolerant than with overweight individuals.
What are your experiences with seating on mass transit?