How you do bags in a crowded train.
How you do bags in a crowded train. Charles Mudede

The good news is that the recent addition of two new stations to Link's line has triggered a surge in ridership. The bad news is that many of this town's inhabitants have a very poor idea of and little experience with an entity that has only begun to appear here and there in recent years: the crowd. A consequence of this impoverished notion of and exposure to the crowd has sometimes been the complete (and barbaric) absence of behavioral adjustments in the transition from private spaces (living room or car) to public ones (the cars, seats, and stations of packed trains).

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It was William James (a 19th century American philosopher, and brother of the novelist Henry James) who pointed out that the human might be the animal with the most instincts. How is this so? Because along with the genetically transmitted instincts, we have those that are derived from cultural transmissions. A human life is about adding instincts, like balancing a bicycle or swimming.

In short, one is not born with the instinct for how to behave in crowded trains; it must be mentally imposed on the body (what learning means) until the body can do it by itself (what habit means). Once in this condition (a habit), it will fully disappear into your body and become a thoughtless action, an instinct.

To help us learn the key behaviors for crowded trains, the people at Sound Transit provided a number of instructions with illustrations of cute animals. So, look at the animal first (brand it on your brain) and then read the rule:


Octopus: Zero “manspreading”; keep yourself to your seat.

Hedgehog: Seats are for butts, not bags.

Turtles: Take off your backpack.

Sasquatch: Keep your feet off the seats.

Squirrels: Walk on the left, stand on the right on escalators.

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Bunnies: Nobody needs to hear your business. Use headphones.

Bruce Gray, the Public Information Officer for Sound Transit, has one more and very important (but sadly animal-less) behavior that must be put in your American body: "Move away from the doors when you get on a train, and move to the ends and center parts of the train so others can get on."

Keep in mind that these rules do not reduce your freedom but increase it. Public freedoms are far greater than private ones.