How To Ethically Get Two Train Seats To Yourself on an Amtrak Car


There’s nothing worse than having to sit next to a stranger on public transport. What if they smell bad, or worse yet, want to have a conversation? Well, I can’t help you if you’re on a subway or bus, but today I’m going to tell you my strategy for getting a seat to yourself onboard Amtrak.

Picture yourself on the train. You’re traveling from DC to New York and you’ve got two seats all to yourself. Your legs are spread out. You’ve got a bag of chips open on the next seat. You’re basically the king of the quiet car. But at the next stop, new passengers begin to flood the train. Anxiety grips you as they all look from side to side and you pray they keep moving.  Beads of sweat fill your brow and your heart fills with fear as you wait for one of them to look at you, point down to the seat next to you and mumble, “Anyone sitting here?” while you curse internally and happily say, “Nope!” Then you have to sit there uncomfortably, unable to relax while responding to their attempts at small talk while waiting for this schmuck to de-train in Wilmington. Who goes to Wilmington anyway?

This situation happens to me on any crowded train trip. I’ve mastered a way to ensure you get your own two seats together without pulling any a-hole stunts I usually see people do. (For the record: if you pretend to sleep, or sleep across two seats, and I walk past you, I’m waking your ass up. I don’t even care if there are empty two-seaters. I will inconvenience myself just to teach you a lesson. This is a train, not an AirbNb.)

Here’s what you do: bring your laptop. And your smart phone. Any device with a cord. Plug both devices into the two outlets Amtrak provides every set of seats. If you can bring a power cord to plug more devices in, all the better. Tablet, TV, toaster, whatever.

Then, and this is the most important part: sit in the aisle seat. Your cords should stretch across the floor in front of the window seat next to you. Do this, and the percentage of new people bugging you to sit next to them will dramatically decrease.

Simple right? Yes, but it works. Buy why you ask? A couple reasons:

No one wants to ask more than one question
If you’re sitting in the window seat, all someone has to ask you about the aisle seat is, “Is anyone sitting there?” Then they just plop themselves down without further effort. If you’re sitting in the aisle though, they need to ask you A) if anyone’s sitting in the window seat and B) if you don’t mind getting up to let them in. While sane, polite person will acquiesce to that request, it’s still an imposition. Plus after two questions you’re now basically conducting an interview. At this point they may as well ask you what your greatest weakness is, or where you see yourself in five years.

No one wants multiple cords at their feet
Even if they ask you to unplug one of your cords, no reasonable person would ask you to unplug both. The deal is, it’s one outlet per person. It’s not a dick move to have one cord stretching past the other seat. Now, at the very least, you’re going to have your chunky laptop battery in their area and a cord basically in their lap. That’s enough to send someone to find a seat in the cafe car.

Now if someone persists, it’s my legal obligation to tell you to not be an ass and let them sit there. But follow these simple rules and I’m almost 99% sure you won’t have a seat mate until the train is at near capacity. Sure, you sacrifice the window seat, but who cares about looking out the window at a train? It’s not like you’re on a plane at 30,000 feet. Pretty sure you can get a good view of the 7 foot altitude once you get there.

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