The butt-brush express

"I'm meek, but I could probably stand to be meeker."
- Ned Flanders

A couple of Sundays ago, we spent the morning in a lecture theatre in Portmeirion, listening to the CEO of Envirosell Inc talk about how to design shops. It’s more interesting than it sounds. Paco Underhill is a consultant who started off filming traffic from New York rooftops and realised that he could apply the same techniques to studying people’s behaviour in shops. He looks at the minutiae of the shopping experience in thousands of shops in dozens of countries to help shops sell more stuff.

Among his many discoveries is the existence what he called the “Butt-brush factor”. Women don’t like shopping in narrow aisles, in case someone brushes past their bum. If it’s a woman who makes contact, that’s bad enough, but the women’s reactions he showed when men brushed past them – pure horror. On the other hand, don’t stock items for alpha males in the middle of a narrow aisle. They will block the way as they examine the contents of a packet of razor blades.

The butt-brush theory came flooding back to us this morning, as we incurred the wrath of a woman behind us, infuriated that the two of us were in contact in the narrow space by the doorway of a crowded train. The trouble began at New Cross Gate, when a couple more people got on the train, necessitating that everyone else budge up a little to let them get to work. That was enough for her to kick off. First with some conspicuous wriggling and then muttering and finally, direct confrontation.

We spent the journey rooted to the spot, examining our conscience and our posture. There was a little contact at the shoulder blades, a little extra pressure when the carriage swayed, but nothing unusual. The guys in front of us were bearing more of our load. It was a squash, but we’ve been squashier.

Perhaps this was butt-brush theory in practice. Perhaps Brockley Central stands badly. Perhaps she is not a nice person (our preferred theory). But we know two things: 1. the countdown clock on the right cannot spin quickly enough and 2. we’re glad that the ELL trains will have plenty of standing room by the doors. We'll swap the outside prospect of a seat for a smaller chance of a fight.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

So when does your case come before the beak?

Anonymous said...

Amen to that Nick. I also got on a rammed train this morning

Anonymous said...

"The British Association of Anger Management (BAAM) says the borough is the seventh most angry place in London and that the capital is the angriest city in the UK."

Anonymous said...

situations like that are ludicrous - as if anybody wants to be squashed up against someone. I find a an exasperated "Oh Fuck Off" can work, or a juvenile "stop talking to me, I'm trying to fart" can be a good wind up option.

Anonymous said...

The 1st reply was true then.

Ed said...

You are very rude man pushing and shovelling me like that this morning, shame on you!

BrockleyBiker said...

This is number 1 on my main three reasons why I don't use public transport. I can't stand being so close to other people, it makes me feel like I am going insane.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like she needed a hug

Rachel said...

It's a miserable experience but I just find a position where I'm not having to breathe in someone's garlic breath/BO or look straight at someone's face, and try to pretend I'm somewhere else.

Physical contact is a fact of life on public transport in London. I once had the truly unpleasant experience of realising that the bloke crushed up against me was enjoying the experience considerably more than I was. Repulsive and a bit freaky, but still only marginally more annoying than loud mp3 players.

westsider said...

Two people wanted to get on at the same time as me today in Brockley. It was a bit crowded and one refused saying that she wasn't an animal. The other person asked everyone very nicely to budge up and get to know their neighbours. He managed to get on.

Moral of the story is that people need to show a bit of blitz spirit and just get on with it.

Rub-a-dub said...

Come on, who didn't like a quick morning frottage?

Anonymous said...

I thought it was standard that when travelling on public transport, you'll end up butt brushing.

I'd say she is not a very nice person - just imagine working with her all day.

Anonymous said...

To quote our resident artist: "Stop wriggling and let me love you"

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the "bunny rape" mural. How lovely.

Anonymous said...

Here comes the tabloid moral outrage......

Tamsin said...

It is not necessarily as bad as it might seem. As recreation for a week or so in June I go off to the Tudor re-creation at Kentwell(primarily for school parties doing their Key Stage history) and a chap there - a clergyman to boot - told me of one occasion when, travelling in full Tudor fig on the underground, he was receiving very dirty looks from a female fellow passenger. It was not until afterwards that he realised that his totally insensate stuffed codpiece had been pressing against her in a most suggesstive manner.

Anonymous said...

I read about the woman who felt a hand on her butt, grabbed it, held it up and said "Does anyone own this hand as I found it on my bum."

Anonymous said...

Yea - what is it about the trains at the moment! This morning they were more squished than usual.

Yesterday the Jubilee line was seriously delayed, last week the Jubilee line was suspended to Canary Wharf and then there was the sideline fire at London Bridge cancelling all trains in and out of the station.

Maybe today’s butt-brush was the last straw for this person?!

But at least it wasn’t a punch up - which I saw about a month ago when a bloke laid into a pregnant lady at the tube entrance to LB because they bumped shoulders!

patrick1971 said...

Worth remembering, especially in the context of the moaning about lack of seating over on the East London Line thread, is that back in the days of Connex, they wanted to make all seating in the Metro trains longitudinal to increase standing capacity. There was predictable outrage (probably mostly from office workers who sit down all day) and it wasn't done. I know I personally would rather stand with a bit of space than stand crushed up against someone else. Call me crazy. Thank god for Ladywell and the (relatively) under-used Hayes line.

Anonymous said...

It's always the women who can't behave themselves on trains - the blokes just get on with it.

TM said...

Maybe with the advent of female rugby and a big of scrummaging the next generation will be less sensitive to the Butt Brush.

Brockley Jon said...

I do find tall blokes to be particularly unaware of their surroundings. I'm not short myself, but the number of times I've had a backpack or a hood in my face from an usually tall chap.

Also, the grab rails (or lack of) on the Southern trains is sometimes a cause for problems as it means you can't easily use all the spaces in the aisles.

Anonymous said...

Bloody backpacks,most of them dont know what backpacking Is.

Anonymous said...

What is backpacking? is there a definition or regulatory body....or is it simply a pack you wear on your back. The clue is in the title...

Murk said...

I thought it was customary to hold onto nearby passengers body parts to stay upright?

Anonymous said...

I'd love to hear the lady's perspective on this encounter.

Headhunter said...

You probably notice taller people's backpacks because they are at face level. Believe me everyone in London seems unaware of what to do with bags on public transport. I'm 6'3" and not especially wide but when I'm sitting in the aisle seat of a bus or train, the number of times I've been clunked round the head or face by some clueless idiot carrying a rucksack or indeed any bag is impossible to guess. Most of them don't even bother to apologise, they just seem to think it's one of the joys of living in London.

Some people are just not very spatially aware. There is a woman in our office here, lovely, but as she walks through the office she seems to ricochet off every other desk and chair. There are a couple of guys opposite me whose seats back onto the aisle between 2 desks, they almost cringe, expecting a whack on the back of the chair, every time she passes...

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