The Nosy Traveler

CONFESSION: I am a side reader. If you sit beside me with a book, magazine, any form of literature or an open electronic device, I will read it! Literally, this is a warning…DO NOT SIT BESIDE ME because I will be all in your mess.This is totally something that I did not know about myself until I started using public transport.

My first few times catching the tube I would see people riding and reading with people peering over their shoulder. I thought to myself, “The nerve” but within months I found myself joining in. To date I can’t count how many excerpts I have read of classic literature,  how many snippets of emails and oddly entertaining half typed texts that have scrolled across my view. I read handwritten notes, the poorly written paper being graded by the teacher that I’m sitting beside and even the notes being studied by the med student across from me. To that one guy that decides it is a good idea to break out a full laptop in a crowded train to put the finishing touches on a report that is due…yeah, I’m all in that!


It is a well known fact that you get some of your most enjoyable reading done while commuting and it is second nature for people to take a glance at what other people have going on. I know, I know, it is utterly and completely rude and sometimes creepy. Oddly, even though it is a bad habit that I have managed to pick up, it seems that I am not alone. While you’re sitting there clutching your pearls, judging me, I will have you know that  loads of you partake in this past time. Whether consciously or not,  you are just as nosy as I am. During my unofficial research I have figured out that there are five types of sneak readers. Where do you belong?

The Crane This person will nearly break their neck trying to get their eyes on what someone else is reading. They can be spotted with a crane like arch in their necks peering over shoulders and over top of heads. No shame in this persons game. They came to read your personal ramblings and aren’t afraid for others to know.

140311_142232 The Side Reader This is me. This individual makes a slight attempt to conceal the fact that they are all in your business by giving your material a serious dose of side eye. They side eye your magazine and your book. They have read your entire diary without turning their heads. The only problem with this is you will have no idea that you have fallen victim to the side reader but the people around you are aware as they are in full view of the unnatural slant of the culprits eyes.

The Giraffe This is typically the tall person in the crowd or either the person standing in front of a row of seats. They look as if they are just standing there but really they aren’t. They are “top reading”. If you take a moment and pull your nose out of that Jane Austen, you will see them all around you.

The Wanderer Of all of the types this is the most professional. They peep with a purpose. They know that this 15 minutes that they have in close quarters will be their only opportunity to catch up on their daily news, celebrity gossip and anything else that will connect them to today’s happenings.  They take this time to get it in. You can catch them spot reading one thing after the next, almost frantically but with a very peculiar discriminative purpose.

The Shoulder Surfer Ever rode a wave? If so then you are familiar with the feeling of bobbing that goes along with it. You could practically get sea sick watching the Shoulder Surfer in action. Their victim is aware of their existence and in an attempt to make them back off they are constantly moving their reading material making the surfer’s head look like a bouy at high tide.

As you mull over the list and think to yourself, “How dare she!”, keep in mind that I was once a proper southern gal and now I am the product of city life. I mean, what do you expect? It is the London transport system for crying out loud.

We are practically in an intimate situation. We are face to face.  I can smell the cedar notes in your cologne and I can detect that you had entirely too many onions on that bap you had for lunch. Additionally, you have comfortably placed your briefcase on my thigh. As to not feel completely and shamefully used by you, at the very least we could share a read!

In every bit of honesty I don’t want to come off rude and I will admit that I despise having this done to me (shame!). Funny enough, I am typing this up while on my evening commute on the tube. As I sit here I notice that I have a few Giraffes, a Side Reader and  an overeager Wanderer making an attempt to get a glance of what has me smirking. I have managed to shield off the Giraffe and the Wanderer has moved on to something more exciting but this Side Reader is relentless! Uuurgh!

I tuck my tablet away in standard passive aggressive fashion and without a moment of hesitation I find myself on my own course of sneak reading. This time the words are plastered on a backpack which read nothing other than the word…KARMA. 140311_154109

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