How to Deal with Irritating People on the Train – Introvert’s Way

I haven’t decided whether to call myself a highly sensitive person or not, but as far as I know, for the most part of my life I was a timid introvert. Being easily distracted by my environment ( noise, people peering over my shoulder, temperature, you name it ), I found a significant portion of my time after classes in school just trying to find a conducive location to study in. But more importantly, I think I was just sensitive to the energies around me whether it was environment or people, and people do pick up on this, whether on a conscious level or not. Many a time, I have had strangers in public places pick me out from a stream of people to ask for advice- mainly directions and the occasional weirdo who assumes I have absolute knowledge about food or toilet paper. (Yup, someone asked me where to find a particular type of toilet paper in the neighbourhood today, while I was sitting alone in the hawker centre, so I thought I’d just add it in.)

So if other people’s behaviour on the train disturbs you very much, you might want to continue reading. If you are like me, you might just prefer to live and let live (or rather, grit your teeth and bear with it) when you encounter unpleasant situations on the train. But sometimes, it can be pretty helpful to have some methods for timid introverts to counteract in a subdued (aka passive aggressive?) manner before finding your own source of peace in these moments. Sometimes, we don’t want to walk away every time. Do note that this works more on trains during the off-peak hours than the crazy-packed-like-sardine mornings.

Noisy People and People who Stand Too Close in your Personal Space –

Ok, I am going to sidetrack and talk about invisible things called chakras in a human’s energy body. There are lots of literature online if you want to know more, but basically chakras are vortexes of energy in the human energy body. And generally a normal human being walking around can have his or her energy leaked out through the chakras in situations such as being around overbearing people, depressed people or even anything that you perceive negatively. People experience this at different levels, but sensitives and introverts seem to experience this more strongly. The aftereffects of this can be frequently felt as irritation, bodily sensations such as muscle aches or just plain fatigue.

The human body chakras, as perceived by some healers or intuitives, are more prominent in the front of the body than the back, suggesting that energy loss might occur to a greater degree from the front of the body than the back. So this comes back to the question of how this is related to dealing with noisy people and people who seem to latch on to your energy in the train.

By mention of noisy people here excludes people who are blasting their headphones or devices at full volume. Yes they are noisy but these people are usually self-absorbed, and if they want to annoy, they basically want to annoy the whole world. I am talking about noisy kids who treats you like part of their obstacle course on the train. It also applies to the group of teenagers/adults/aunties/uncles who seem to talk a tad too loudly. And the unassuming commuter who, despite having a whole row of empty seats, chooses the one right next to you, usually adults or aunties and uncles. And as the ride goes by they fidget, or make some noise with their mouth, or glance around – a bit too often in your direction. Or just someone who stands too close to you on the train that is making you uncomfortable with their proximity.

What you do is simply to turn in a direction so that they are out of your vision. Do not even allow yourself to see them out of the corner of your eye. Turn your back to them completely. If you are sitting down and mobility is limited, just close your eyes. If they are kids running around, you could look upwards at the ads. Surprisingly it has worked quite well for me. The very act of removing them from my vision had me calm down almost instantly. And sometimes to verify, I would turn back after a few moments and find them facing somewhere else or doing something else or walk off. What I guess is that when a person is reactive to a person or group of people irritating them, the person gives them attention and in some way the energy flows towards the person or group you are giving attention to. I could simply say to ignore them, but it suggests to focus on whatever you are doing and pretend they don’t exist. For sensitives, it sometimes just ain’t enough. And if they do continue to behave the same way after you have turned around, perhaps they are enjoying themselves in their own energy and that is fine too.

Indecent Physical Touch – 

I have had only one such incident as a student in my teens. But I remember the guy wearing a dirty-rose coloured tee, that to this day that I avoid anyone wearing this particular shade. His method was to stand closely next to you, and let his arm go slack such that when the train moves, it would swing with the train’s momentum and  his hand would “accidentally” land on the side of your thigh. When it lands, miraculously it stays there, right on your thigh, and the commuters sitting down would hardly suspect a thing. As timid as  I was, I noticed and managed to move my feet 2 inches away from his arm. The offender then pretended he was shuffling his position and managed to resume sufficient proximity from me to try it again. Eventually I alighted at the next possible station, but not without having a kind of shock over it.

Even to me then, it was a dilemma because it was done so discreetly it didn’t look like a direct outrage of modesty and as timid as I was, it was hard to gather sufficient courage to shout out in public. What I would do differently now is to put more distance between myself and the offender, say take a normal step away but within visible range of the offender such that he would be tempted to take a step towards me. Stare him back for good measure if I am brave enough, and then to move again if he does that. Try repeating it a few more times and we would have pretty much walked half the carriage and gathered sufficient attention from bored commuters on the seats to notice what was happening.

Sleep-deprived –

Ok, we see these all the time. People who uncontrollably lean too far over the side while dozing off and if they got lucky, they got a kind soul’s shoulder as a pillow during the trip. I noticed that even though people were sleepy, somehow they have a sense of direction to fall towards; like whether towards the female student on the left or the burly-looking old man with a beer belly on the right. Or towards the meek-looking lady on the right than the empty seat on the left. To counteract that, I have seen some people position their butts further out of their seats to be out of the alignment of these sleepyheads, so should they fall, they fall into the empty space behind. I guess it works somewhat though it might be better to just stand instead.

Fart – 

People who fart on the train (myself included, sometimes accidents do happen) fall into a delusion believing that no one can detect their fart. I found that sometimes I do not have to hold my nose the whole time when it happens. I can gauge the direction where the fart originated by trial and error. Turn your head in whatever direction in the train. Somehow the opposite direction of the fart’s origin will be quite odourless and can surprisingly remain odourless for quite some time. If you would like to survive the stink bomb attack while remaining in position, simply turn your head towards the opposite direction of the fart.

Pole-stickers – 

People who lose their backbone when they see a pole and have to lean against it, even though your hand is already there. Okay, this depends on how much you want to defend your territory (the pole), even though it is technically no one’s territory. If you do want it so badly, sneakily and slowly turn your hand slightly so that you have your fingers stretched straight out and pointing towards the person’s back so that when he or she leans, your fingers jab into it, making it uncomfortable to lean. And if they turn around to see, you can curl them slightly and pretend nothing happened.

Shoulder Slam Aunties and Uncles – 

This is a more recent phenomena, which I think occurred because of the queue lines that were implemented in the MRT stations from 2009. This and together with the automated barrier doors that were installed after a series of suicide cases of people jumping off the platform onto the train tracks.

Queue Lines

In the past, kiasu people who wanted to rush through the train doors would do so right in the middle of the door opening. Now most commuters are gracious enough to follow the queue lines and give way first to the alighting commuters, but increasingly, I meet the shoulder-slam kiasu aunties. These are aunties who follow the queue lines but are usually found standing right in front of the queue ready to barge in when the door opens. You come out from the centre, they barge in from the side, hence the shoulder slam contact.

This is a hard one that I am still figuring out. For one thing, these aunties have their intent set to bang anyone out of the way, and the decision to carry out their act is based on the opponent they face – basically YOU, whether you are frail-looking or again, look like the beer-bellied burly looking uncle. If I do decide to stand my ground instead of giving way, I usually ground myself first by imagining my feet growing into the ground. You know, very much like in Lord of the Rings, how Treebeard braced himself before the waters from the dam hit him in the Battle of Isengard. But usually I still end up with a collision of some kind and boy they are strong. The only time that an auntie actually gave way was when I slung my huge and full backpack in front of my body. I could see it in her stance that she was ready for action and then changed her mind after the doors opened and I came out backpack first.

If you have read this far, I am not too sure if what I have written contributes any value, since some seem nonsensical and sneaky coming from one who has been interested in spirituality for a long time. And dealing with fart on trains seems like the smallest of issues in the grand picture of life. I think there is a choice to everything, including whether you want to let it go in a more loving manner or to stand your ground against these seemingly meaningless things. But sometimes it gets to me that people choose to bully others who look weaker and more than often get their way while people like us bear with it. This article hopefully gives you some relief in your daily train commute.


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