Subway etiquette in three easy partsBy
On a multiple occasions at random times of the day in recent weeks, I’ve found myself on a few different trains with bench seating. When I ride those lines, I try to be mindful of the space between me and others next to me. I prefer not to sit on top of my neighbors when train cars are half empty, but I also like to make sure I’m not hogging more than my fair share of the space. If there’s room, someone should be able to sit next to me.
What really grinds my gears, though, is when the person sitting down doesn’t take the same precaution. Recently, I’ve had people stumble over me, bumping into me and then sitting on top of me as they’ve attempted to take a seat on the train. Only after I glance, glare or raise an eyebrow at them do they mutter a half-hearted apology or finally utter excuse me. In any other setting — a movie theater, a sports stadium, an airplane — this behavior would be considered rude, but on the subways, it seems to be de rigueur as straphangers do everything humanly possible to avoid interacting with their fellow subway riders.
In the grand scheme of the way we ride, these seat-bumpers are but a minor inconvenience. They pale in comparison with the pole-huggers, door-blockers and iPod headphone abusers, but they’re still a part of the great dance of the subway system. They set the tone for the way we view people sitting next to us and for the way we all interact during our short or not-so-short subway rides.
Before the long weekend, Jen Doll at The Village Voice’s website offered up a primer on subway etiquette. Over the years, I’ve covered various approaches to politeness underground. Some have come in the form of a laundry list of dos and don’ts. Other pieces have examined single-issues topics (including the ever-controversial pregnant lady conundrum). Doll’s list though is short, sweet and to the point.
Picking up from a video of people doing something in the subway that isn’t normally done in the subway — for instance, yoga — Doll distills subway etiquette into three simple points: 1. Pay attention to yourself, and to other people; 2. The subway is for getting you to where you want to go; and point three, which I’ll quote at length:
?3. Get on the subway train of your choice. Sit down or stand up in an area that seems convenient, and is not massively in the way of or on top of other people. Stay there until you reach your stop, reading, listening to music, staring into the ether, counting the minutes until you’ve arrived. Get off the subway. Carry on.
In other words, be a good person and don’t use the subway for things that would annoy you if someone else did it or aren’t appropriate for the subway. Don’t eat; don’t fight; don’t host dinner parties; don’t take up more than your own seat. It’s all common sense to me, but when I watch the way we ride, I’m always shocked by how many New Yorkers can’t seem to grasp these simple concepts. The Golden Rule doesn’t always exist underground, but if it did, the subways would be a far more pleasant place for a commute.