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Another reason people like standing near the doors? Avoiding what the study tactfully called “the sometimes uncomfortable feeling of accidentally making eye contact with seated passengers.” Obviously. Is anything worse than this? Accidentally locking eyes with someone, looking away too fast so that they know you noticed, looking back to figure out why the hell they were staring at you in the first place, beginning the cycle all over again, god.
Maybe having a stranger's clammy hand touch yours by accident (please let it be an accident, uggggh) on the pole is a little bit worse, but only maybe. Unless someone around you is doing something weird and/or scary, in which case, eye contact is comforting. But only then.