Metro 55

Richard Herring: My tight squeeze with a Tube space invader was a real turn-off
Friday 8 Mar 2013

I know you enjoy my tales of public transport nightmares. You’re possibly going through your own right now. We all have it in our power to make our commutes better or worse for each other. Try not to be the selfish arsehole that ruins someone else’s day.

I got on the Tube last week. It wasn’t too busy but there were limited places to sit. A man and woman were bookending two empty spaces. An armrest in the middle meant I had to choose where to park my booty. Gallantly, I elected to sit next to the man. He was stretched out across his own seat and half of the next one. He had his legs splayed wide – he clearly considered himself the alpha male in this carriage.

I assumed he’d move for me but he obviously didn’t want me to sit next to him. But I was going to anyway. I hovered for a second, assuming he’d shift but if anything he spread out more. Gravity pulled me downwards and I was forced to squeeze into a space that would have struggled to accommodate Kate Moss holding in her stomach. I’m no Kate Moss. I was practically sitting on this stranger’s knee but he refused to yield.

He was asserting his virile masculinity. Ironically he had chosen to do that by pressing his leg so hard against another man’s that our bones were touching. Was this a clumsy attempt at a pick-up? If so he was doing it all wrong. Seduction requires some give as well as take. Even had I fancied him, this would have put me right off. For starters, it’s polite to ask your potential paramour if they want to be the postman or the letterbox, rather than forcing the situation.

It was a stand-off. Even though we were sitting down. He wanted me to move to a different seat, I wanted him to scoot over so he occupied the space of two and not three arse cheeks. Perhaps the man thought the incredible awkwardness of our situation would embarrass me into leaving him be but he underestimated my persistence. This was stalemate.

I wasn’t intimidated. I felt that his unrelenting desire for more territory than he required was actually a sign of masculine weakness, not strength. A real man would be secure enough to be accommodating. Only a petty, dickless wonder would make this an issue.

You might argue that I was being just as pathetic. I could have taken the higher path and left him to air his tiny plum-hammock in peace but it was a point of principle. He wasn’t going to win this tussle of the beta males. Or maybe we were zeta males. But not theta males. We weren’t that bad. Always nice to put in a joke for the Greek alphabet fans.

After five minutes, he shifted the tiniest smidge. I had won this battle of wilful stupidity. At the next stop, the lady got off the train so I could scoot over without losing face. But then the carriage filled up with passengers and an elderly couple got on and being a polite commuter I gave up my seat.

A woman sat down next to the Penis Fly-Trap and he immediately made room for her. What was going on in his brain? Was he too macho to back down for a male or just desperate for the sensation of another man’s body against his? We’ll never know. He got off at the next stop.

I didn’t take his seat. Either way, it was likely to be a little damp.

See Richard Herring’s reworking of his 2002 show, Talking Cock: The Second Coming, on his nationwide tour.