subway culture

i’ve been in new york now for about 4 years (gasp…that long?  yup.) and today i was doing some errand running at grand central before coming into work.  i had to pick up 38 one-day metro cards for my grantees and that can only be done at the mta transit museum shop in grand central.  anyway, so as i’m running around, changing trains, going up and down flights of stairs, i started to think about all of the cultural ins-and-outs of the subway in new york. 

there are lots of things that i started to think about that aren’t really remarkable, just a part of life that nobody else really thinks about too much (outside of other train riders).  things like – to touch or not to touch the pole?  do i want to squeeze in between those two fat guys on the 3-person bench?  isn’t that kid deaf by now, because I can sing along to his music even though he’s wearing headphones.  if i make a running start, can i wedge myself into that intensely crowded car?  should i be nervous that the car in front of me on the train is strangely empty (usually affirmed by a HORRIFIC smell encountered upon entering.  this smell is sometimes strong enough to trigger a gag reflex). 

some behaviors are probably unique to train riding:

door lurkers:  people who insist on standing in the subway door area even when there is plenty of room in the car, thereby blocking traffic in and out of the car at every stop.

pole leaners:  people that refuse to touch the pole so they lean on it, making it impossible for anybody else to hold onto the pole.  argh.

leg spreaders:  not as risque as it sounds.  almost always guys.   people that spread their legs to the point that other people can’t/won’t take the seat next to them.

then there are just all of the other people that make the subway fun/stressful/unique/a memorable part of my commute: 

  • performers – the guys that dance in the car, and at some point a small kid does a flip and hits the roof of the car, scaring me that he’s going to hit his head every single time.
  • chicano musicians (very cool)
  • the often-annoying singers at the south end of the downtown platform on the A/B/C/D/E train at 59th street
  • the awesome violinist at 181st street
  • the guy with the keyboard and the creepy dancing dolls (various locations)
  • all of the super-cute kids that i see all the freakin’ time
  • tourists that loudly discuss all of the cool things that they plan to see and the new yorkers that try to explain to them how to get there
  • debates on the best way to get from point a to point b (especially on the weekends when there are delays, lines down and re-routes)

i think i’ll add to this as i think of other things.  i’m really going to miss the subway when i eventually leave new york.  also, a fascinating site that is quickly making my fav list:

Overheard in New York

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One Response to “subway culture”

  1. I’m the person on the subway that won’t touch the pole with my bare hands…kind of a germophobe when on subways. Call it the nurse in me.

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