Flying back from a long weekend in Dublin I was delighted to find a vacant seat on an emergency exit row with extra leg room, which I always appreciate being quite tall. The seat was between two middle-aged people, a woman on the aisle seat and man on the widow seat. I asked the woman if the seat was actually free and if she would mind if I sat there or if she would move across — which she did. I noticed that both of my co-passengers were wearing marriage rings and by the way she nervously held his hand during take-off and landing, I assumed that they were in fact married to each other. Having personal space is one thing but being married and not wanting to sit next to each other confuses me.
This is not limited to flights and is something I notice a lot on the bus and train. People trying to reserve a seat for their bag so that they don’t have to sit next to anybody is bordering on just being anti-social in my opinion. The worst offender was a man who happened to be in my reserved table seat on the train and had his jacket across the two opposing seats and his bag next to him — that’s four seats for a single passenger! I made a point of sitting down with him despite the train being relatively quiet. Having sat down, the majority of travelers will also tend to automatically plug in their headphones to further isolate and protect themselves from any human interaction.
Weirdly, the elevator effect (as this phenomenon is called) is also apparent in Second Life.