While trying to avoid the forced socializing that sometimes comes when traveling with strangers might not seem like a difficult task, new research reveals that it actually takes a lot of work to be anti-social.

Yale University researcher Esther Kim spent three years riding coach across the great American roadways in order to observe the obsessive quirks and bizarre behavior of those people being transported across the country in the company of strangers.

“We live in a world of strangers, where life in public spaces feels increasingly anonymous,” said Kim. “However, avoiding other people actually requires quite a lot of effort and this is especially true in confined spaces like public transport.”

During her journey, Kim says she discovered that the greatest unspoken rule of bus travel is that if other seats are available you shouldn’t sit next to someone else because most passengers claim it makes a person look weird.

However, it is when the bus starts filling up and more passengers are still getting on that things start to get interesting. Kim says that she found that most people will go out of their way to avoid others. Pretending to be busy, checking cell phones, looking past people or falling asleep are just some of the many ways people avoid fraternizing with the unknown.

Others included:

• Avoiding eye contact with other people

• Leaning against the window and stretching out your legs

• Placing a large bag on the empty seat

• Sitting on the aisle seat and turning on your iPod so you can pretend you cannot hear people asking for the window seat.

• Placing several items on the spare seat so it is not worth the passenger’s time waiting for you to move them.

• Looking out the window with a blank stare to look crazy

• Pretending to be asleep

• Putting your coat on the seat to make it appear already taken

• If all else fails, lying and saying the seat has been taken by someone else

While all of this sounds like such painstaking efforts just to keep from sitting next to a stranger, Kim says the good news is that race, class, gender and other background characteristics were of no concern to travelers — everyone just wants to avoid the “crazy person.”

[Science Daily]

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