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Shortcuts: Getting a seat in rush hour

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(CNN) -- How to beat the commuter zombies and get a seat in the rush hour -- without getting old or pregnant.

Preparation: The key to a successful commute is routine and, since you've likely been making the same dreary journey for the past 10 years and will continue to do so for another 10, there's no excuse for not knowing your territory. Spend any time on the London Underground, for instance, and you will notice that the doors always stop in the same place. Make that spot your second home. Every station has its patterns of congestion depending on the position of exits and entrances but, as a rule, trains tend to be busier in the middle than at either end so you need to do your research. Of course, if you're really desperate for a seat you could always move to the end of the line. That's the only way to guarantee yourself an extra hour's sleep in the morning.

Queuing: As Japanese author Hajime Yorozu, author of "Sit Down on a Commuter Train!", says, "the mastery of the art of sitting down means first mastering the art of queuing." Even assuming you've positioned yourself in line with the doors to stand a chance of getting a seat you've got to treat the arrival of a train/bus as akin to the start of the 100 meters Olympic final. Successful commuting is an Olympic sport and you are Ben Johnson. Remember that departing passengers are likely to push you aside as the doors open so duck for cover by the doors and then slip into the carriage as soon as possible. As Andrew Martin, expert on London Tube manners, writes: "When the doors of a bus, Tube or train open, you must of course allow time for the passengers on board to disembark. The correct amount of time to allot is one second. Thereafter, it is good etiquette to board the train, Tube or bus using only as much physical force as is absolutely necessary while quietly swearing."

Identify your target: If you've used your elbows, laptop case and briefcase tactically you should now be comfortably settled into a seat. Failing that, the key is to get yourself into the best position to take advantage of any imminent departure. Once inside head for the middle of the carriage. If you hang around the doors you'll be bounced around like a ping pong ball in a Jacuzzi. You can spot a passenger preparing to leave by their general fidgeting. Hajime says: "Watch people's eyes very closely. Glances at a watch or station name are promising signs. People about to leave their seats will generally tend to uncross their legs, move their bags upright on their laps, or search in their pockets for a bookmark." He also points out that Japanese women also tend to fix their hair just before they are about to leave. This may not be culturally specific behavior. As soon as a target is identified you have to move in for the kill. Position yourself at an angle to channel them out of the carriage while leaving the way clear for you to sit down. Any pause will be interpreted as a sign of weakness by rival seat-snappers, but if you are closest your claim should be indisputable. Only good manners can thwart you.

Defend your seat: Once you've won your seat, the next step is to retain it. Avoid eye contact at all costs. Jealous passengers coveting your seat will stare, attempting to use mind control to force you to your feet. Hide behind a large newspaper or, better still, feign sleep and clamp a giant pair of headphones over your ears. Even sunglasses are acceptable. It is particularly important not to pay attention to the comings and goings at each subsequent station. The last thing you want is to spot some old lady or a pregnant woman with their face squashed up against the doors messing with your karma.


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Commuters cram onto an Underground train in London.

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