Can I Put My Bag on a Subway Seat, Instead of Sitting?

Thursday, March 17, 2011 - 12:41 PM

The offending bag, with a Blackberry next to it for scale

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  Two months ago, I injured my back, making it hard for me to sit.   So I stand on the subway train -- but if it's not too crowded, I put my bag on the seat to ease the strain of carrying a large purse, as well as to avoid bending up and down to put it on the floor.  If I put in on the floor, I have to move it almost every stop, because it's kind of long (good for carrying radio recording equipment.)  And that also stresses my back, so if it's not too crowded, I will put my bag on the seat, and stand beside it.

Today, when I boarded the train, it was pretty empty. So I put my bag on the seat, stood beside it, and proceeded to read the coverage of Japan on the NY Times op-ed page.  About three stops later, a passenger got on -- a young, seemingly able-bodied man, and pointed to my bag, saying "your bag."  I thought he was pointing out that the zipper was about 3 inches open, so I closed it.

Then, he said, "Move your bag!" rather brusquely.  I explained it was there because I can't sit, and it was taking up the seat instead of me.   He started to scream: "You're really being an asshole!"

I was uncharacteristically speechless.

A few seats down, a woman in a white coat joined in and said:  "Can't you see she's injured?"  He continued to yell.   She got up.  "Take my seat, then.  It's too early in the morning.  Take my seat."  Which he did.

A few stops later, someone got off, and then someone got on, my bag was still on the seat.  "Don't worry," the woman said.  "There's room for me and your bag."

But what do you think?  Is it okay for me to put my bag on the seat instead of, um, my posterior?


Comments [7]


I can understand both positions. I've also seen people standing while their bags occupy seats. Now, I understand why this is a legitimate thing to do - albeit a non-intuitive thing to do, from the point of a typical strap hanger.

If the train were crowded, I might have sided with the other person - I'm a person who has a bad back - I should either be walking or sitting - not standing in one place, and rushes to find a seat when one is available. But on an uncrowded train, why not accept a bag taking a seat? There may just be a good reason for it - as in your case.....

Mar. 19 2011 01:14 PM

I disagree with the previous comments, and think people need to get a shot of perspective. The person who began yelling at you is an idiot -- I'm truly sorry you have to deal with these bizarrely negative reactions to something so minor. i hope your recovery is fast and blessedly free of further unpleasant encounters.

Mar. 19 2011 06:22 AM


Mar. 18 2011 06:06 PM
Andrea Bernstein

Hey folks, thanks for your comments! I think I'm just going to carry a smaller bag while my back is healing and figure out the radio recording equipment thing on an ad-hoc basis.

He really did get mad, quickly! I think he was irritated that I closed my bag's zipper as my first response, and then he didn't hear, or didn't want to hear, when I explained I'd put the bag on the seat because I have trouble bending down and also carrying it on the subway.

By the way, a number of people have suggested a wheeled bag, but honestly, carrying a wheeled bag up and down the steps would be really hard, undoing what good it did while on a level surface.

And yeah, for the record, there were several empty seats when I got on, not really three stops later, though the train wasn't what I would call full for 9 in the morning, either.

Mar. 18 2011 02:33 PM

To be honest, it's not a luggage rack. At what point do you decide that the train is 'full' enough for you to pick up your bag?
You should keep your personal belongings *on your person*.
Now that being said, if you have an injury, and you

Mar. 18 2011 08:12 AM
Joel Epstein

No. I agree with the young, seemingly able-bodied man. You're thinking too hard about this and you have information that he doesn't. The young man and others getting on the train can't see any good reason for your bag to be on the seat. Get a bag on wheels until you back is better. And feel better.

Mar. 17 2011 08:32 PM


Mar. 17 2011 03:24 PM

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