29 September 2009

Train Door Phenomenon

Over the last few years I have been running a simple experiment to confirm a phenomenon that I had been noticing more and more often. Today the effects were so clear I thought I'd write it down for you, so that you can try it out yourself. Now as I started this experiment some time ago there are references to me smoking on a train platform but this was obviously written before the English government decided to criminalize such obviously evil behaviour whilst continuing to ignore the fact that alcohol is in fact the most dangerous drug in common use… anyway I digress, on with the experiment.

While waiting for a train to depart I often have a quick cigarette on the platform and while I was waiting I would naturally stand near the door of the train that I intended to enter. Now sometimes this is because the train is already busy and there are very few good seats left (with a table or empty double seat for example) and not wanting to lose out, I stationed myself near to a door that would lead me to one of these choice seating locations. Now as I've been doing this for some time I started to notice that as people came along the platform (no doubt also looking for a good seat), they would enter at the door that I was closest to even if there was no way for them to have seen that there was a good seat nearby. This is particularly noticeable if you are planning on entering by one of the two doors in the last carriage. As I often wish to use a table for typing (like right now) I almost always do use one of these doors as the trains on my particular train line only have large tables in the first and last carriages.

Obviously the more people that get on at "my door" the greater the chance that one of them will take the seat that I had my eye on, which is a little annoying. So I tried to fake them out. I moved down a door while I smoked my cigarette and low and behold a large proportion of the platform walkers started to enter the train via this new door that was not so close my desired seat! I switched it about a bit, moved up and down the train, went back to "my door" just to see if I was imagining it. This phenomenon was so greatly demonstrated this evening, when 5 out of six walkers would enter via the door I was standing near in preference to any other door beyond that point or in the direction in which they were walking from. The practical upshot of this is that if you see a seat that you want and fancy a quick cigarette before the train leaves, go and stand near a different door, preferably one slightly closer to the station entrance.

Try it, I think you will be surprised.