Gas prices got you on the subway? Ellen’s guide to Subway etiquette

27 06 2008

With gas priced at over $4/gallon, maybe you can no longer afford to drive and you’re new to mass transit? Maybe you’re a subway veteran who needs a refresher course…

If you have been reading my posts lately you know I have a very young baby. One thing that struck me was how incredibly difficult it was to get a seat on the subway even when I was enormously pregnant. The subways are only getting more and more crowded (ironically, with fewer drivers, the MTA in New York City projects less annual revenue from tolls which means they will continue to defer much needed maintenance and improvements throughout the system).

I have been riding the subway for over 20 years (way before they were air conditioned!) This is my short list of things you should do and not do when riding the rails.

Politeness issues: Basically, we’re all in this together.

1. If you see a pregnant woman, or old person, or a person with a cane or crutches or a parent with small children standing – or even just a really tired looking person, ask politely if they’d like a seat and stand up (this also has the benefit of giving you karmic credit for when you really need a seat).

2. Go to work slightly after rush hour for a saner, quieter trip.

3. Bring something small to read that you can hold with one hand so you don’t smack your fellow travelers when turning the page. Read the Times online, not on the subway…or try an audio book. I’m on the fence though about reading over someone’s shoulder. Don’t think people don’t know you are doing it. I sometimes let folks finish the page of the magazine I’m reading before turning it.

4. Don’t hold the door open – what may save you a minute, delays the rest of us.

5. Don’t throw trash on the platform or the track. If you see teenagers (or anyone else for that matter) littering, feel free to ask them to clean up after themselves.

6. Don’t put your feet on the seats or on the pole. It’s hard enough to keep gross shoe stuff out of our house when it’s on our shoes, let alone all over us.

7. If you happen to be the unfortunate soul sitting below the map, do lean over to let folks see where they are going. If it takes them more than 30 seconds, offer to help them figure out their route because they are obviously not from here.

8. This is what is supposed to happen when the train comes into a station: People on the platform near the door step aside so the people exiting the train can leave peacefully. People inside the train who may be blocking the door step onto the platform to allow the people who are leaving the train an easier exit.

9. I’m now going to tell you the secret code of riding the escalators: If you want to stand still and ride, stand on the right. If you want to walk, walk on the left.

10. Increase the peace: Try to smile at one person on the subway per day.

Proximity issues: Except for on an elevator, we never enjoy each other’s company so closely as on the subway. Here are some things you can do to make it a more pleasant trip for your neighbors and avoid unwanted physical contact.

1. Wear deodorant. If you have just come from an all-day outdoor basketball tournament, don’t grip the overhead bar so that your armpit is just above someone’s face. Keep your arms down and hold onto something else.

2. Please don’t sing or pray loudly, most likely no one wants to hear it. However, if someone near you is singing or praying loudly, just ignore it, don’t mutter under your breath in a passive-aggressive way.

3. Don’t get angry at crying children. They’re kids, they can’t help it. Similarly, if you can’t deal with noisy teenagers, don’t ride the train at 3pm.

4. Don’t lean on the pole on a crowded train so that strangers have to touch you just to avoid falling down.

5. Don’t stare at people (this goes for everywhere – not just on the subway).

6. Men: don’t spread your legs to take up more than one seat. One tush – one seat!

7. Be aware of where your bags are. It’s easy to forget how far your profile extends with a backpack strapped on or a big briefcase hanging on your shoulder

Be safe out there!




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