As part of my endless commute home last week, I experienced a distinctly annoying aspect of riding the subways. When the 2 train for which I had just waited 17 minutes pulled into Atlantic Ave., the dreaded and familiar “ding” of the PA system’s manual override rang out, and the conductor announced that the 2 would be going express from Atlantic Ave. to Franklin St. Many of my fellow riders and I surged toward the door only to be greeted by an immovable mass of door-blockers. These straphangers would not relinquish their plum positions leaning against the doors and barely gave way as people filed out of the train.
A few days before that incident, The Post, in an informal survey of 300 New Yorkers discovered that the number one annoyance of urban life in the Big Apple isn’t the noise or the crowds. It’s not the frenetic pace of city life or mind-numbingly bland street fairs. Rather, it is people who block subway car doors. While 20.9 percent say slow tourists who don’t know how to walk properly are the leading cause of urban frustration, 24.8 percent say people too inconsiderate to give way at subway stations are the most annoying in New York City.
Rashaun Simon, a 23-year-old from Queens, hit the nail upon the head in his assessment of door hogs, akin to pole hogs and seat hots in their manners. “It’s a hospitality issue,” Simon said. “They’re the same people who don’t give up their seats to pregnant women.”
In essence, these people are the oblivious riders. Similar to those who surreptitiously discard papers, dirty napkins or chicken fingers and french fries on the floor of subway cars without stopping to clean up, the door hogs are the people who think the rules don’t apply to them. They can stand in the door because the subways are there for them and the rest of the people on board are the ones in the way. Plus, aren’t there usually two or three other seats of doors? Just exit through those instead.
The door hogs too transcend issues of personal space. They actively hinder train operations because they act as a funnel for people exiting and boarding the car. If a door hog is blocking half of the entrance, the load times at that door are delayed, and everyone must wait just so this one person can lean back for 20 seconds in between stations.
In the face of such obliviousness then, what is a polite straphanger to do? As with anything underground, the appropriate response would be to kill them with kindness. “Excuse me please” or even a subtly sarcastic “excuse me” often do the trick. A courteous door-leaner will step out of the train at the next stop and then move to the center of the car as he or she boards again. The person who thinks they take up less space than they actually do will try to smoosh themselves against the row of seats as people file by.
The problems arise when a door hog doesn’t move when asked. Then, it becomes a question of picking a fight, intentionally or inadvertently. A well-placed shoulder, elbow or flying bag can get the message across. A dirty look might do the job too. But the trick is to leave the train car without creating a physical incident with the person who obviously cars little about anyone but themselves.
It just might a losing battle though to fight the door hogs. They don’t move because they don’t want to move, and nothing anyone can do will stop them. The door hogs will always be an identifiable part of the subway system, and as Aramis Reynoso said to The Post, “The things that annoy you about New York are usually the things that define New York.”
LIRR Update: For the latest news on the delays plaguing the Long Island Rail Road and the agency’s plan for the Wednesday commute, please read this post. I’ll update with new information as it becomes available throughout the day.