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Snoopy people on the train

I typically spend a couple of hours a day on weekdays on the train, commuting between home and work. In true productivity geek fashion, I try to squeeze as much as I can out of this time, usually doing one of the following:

  • Work (yeah, I know …)
  • Reading (both professional and recreational)
  • Meditating
  • Thinking
  • Sleeping (when the kids / work / something else has kept me up all night)
  • General GTD-type housekeeping, such as emptying my mind into a trusted system (which is currently Asana)
  • Trying to write journal / blog entries

I find a quiet spot, dig in for the next hour and get cracking. Every once in a while, my peaceful <pick activity from list above> is interrupted by:

  • A friend seeing me sitting there and catching up for the rest of the trip
  • An acquaintance seeing me and feeling compelled to sit next to me and making (sometimes awkward) small talk for the rest of the trip

And that’s OK – you do need to be social. Sometimes, though, I’ll get some random stranger sitting next to me who is just … snoopy. No, not in a smart, cute canine way, but in the super-annoying, reading my book / laptop (sometimes out loud) way. Seriously.

And that’s pretty much what happened this morning. I was happily sitting at a window seat, minding my own business, emptying my brain of things I needed to get done today, when this guy came and sat next next to me. He then proceeded to read  – unabashedly – through what I was typing into my loaner Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro (review coming soon). At one point, it became so obvious that I looked at him and said “Hello”, hoping that he would feel bad and stop. But he just smiled, said Hello, shook my hand, and continued his reading pleasure – of my work. Wow.

Much as I tried, I just couldn’t deal with it, so I closed the laptop, packed it away, and spent the rest of the trip thinking about it. While both annoying and somewhat amusing at the same time, I was wondering what is good commuting etiquette relating to reading / viewing other people’s materials on public transport?

I’ve always thought that reading over someone’s shoulder was rude, and feel that it also applies to digital devices. So if you get on public transport and are bored, please refrain from peeking into the reading / viewing material on your neighbour’s lap. You certainly wouldn’t like it if it happened to you … I think.