There's nothing I love better than not having to pay car insurance, deal with mechanical failures or release pent up road rage by instead allowing public transportation to do the brunt work for me. However, the daily commute let's loose a whole new kind of rage that could drive some to the brink of bodily harm.
Thus, I'd like to share some coping guidelines that I've learned (or am trying to anyhow) on surviving the New York subway experience:
Walk swiftly, and don't stop in the middle of the walking paths on the platform, looking like a lost orphan. People, ie me, have places to go, faster than it takes you to figure out that you're on the wrong platform or to look at your shoes forlornly. If you don't move, then there will be nothing to hold against me when I accidentally push you off the platform. Which brings me to my next point....
Stay Away From the Edge of the Platform. Seriously, it makes me nervous.
Especially if you have kids. Why, as a parent, you are allowing your kids to venture any more than 1 foot in front of you in either direction, let alone screw around near the edge of the tracks is beyond me. And I'm no mother.
What To Do If You Fall on the Tracks. You won't, because I just told you to stay away from the edge. And if you went down there to get something you dropped, you're an idiot.
Regardless of chivalry, good manners and all the other morals that humans should uphold, the subway-riding experience is more akin to the cutthroat ravages of the wild. Eat or be eaten. Kill or be killed. There is a delicate balance that must be found between the human and animals instincts within us.
Eating. I've done it a few times myself, so I won't go so far as to condone eating on the subway; however if you must, please mind what your mother taught you. Don't eat with your mouth open (that's gross anywhere, at anytime). Also, anything that requires a utensil or sloppy enough to require a bib is absolutely NOT cool. It already reeks of BO and urine; do you really need to eat right now?
Loud Music. When dealing with a passenger who's trance/hip hop/death metal/Whitney Houston music volume is blaring through their headphones, I encourage the use of pre-made signs as an initial polite request:
If this method fails, feel free to use the following retorts:
If you'd rather not spend the time making communicative signs, there is always the possibility of beginning to dance in an obnoxiously spastic way, relative to the passenger's music of choice. If they are not dense, they will soon understand that you are making fun of their shitty music, to the delight of all other passengers.
Violence/Harrassment. If this is happening to others, don't be a hero unless someone is in serious danger and you have the balls. If the violence/harrassment is happening to you, verbally or physically, you MUST have the balls.
I won't speak for everyone, but I know that personally, if anyone utters any disrespect or purposely lays an extremity or other unwanted substance on me, there will be hell to pay. Subways are shitty places to begin with, and I can bet that at any point in the day I am not in the mood to deal with assholes. I will not hesitate to react. I'm not sure how, but let's just say I'm most likely taller than you, equipped with nails, and have at least 25 years of pent up rage waiting to be unleashed. Try me. I dare you.
Musical Subway Chairs
You deserve to sit down on your long journey. Why?
Because you've done a shit load of walking.
Because you're pregnant.
Because you didn't have time to do your make-up.
Because you're old and feeble, or have a lame leg.
Because you worked until almost midnight and need to catch some sleep before you go back to doing it all over again.
Because it's a free fucking country.
There is most certainly an art to finding a seat on a crowded subway. This often becomes a meditative study on human behavior, where one must "hide in the bushes" - metaphorically speaking - acutely observing any possibility of flight, in order to pounce at the most opportune moment.
Here are a few key observations to make whilst scoping out the next possible open seat:
Sleeping Passengers. Granted there is a BIG difference between fully conked out/drooling on oneself to simply closing one's eyes. Most likely, a person won't be getting off at the nearest stop if they aren't alert and awake. But then again, I'm the best at maintaining a state of half-conscious awareness which allows me to intuitively know when I need to open my eyes, stop dreaming about killing the person next to me, and get ready to bolt at the next stop. So don't completely rule out the sleepers.
Reading Passengers. If someone's stop is coming up, they will almost ALWAYS put their reading material away beforehand. Watch for movement.
Anxious Passengers. Many commuters will glance anxiously outside the subway car doors at each stop, making sure they haven't reached theirs yet. They will also glance at their watch or curse under their breath in frustration.
By Occupation. I don't want to make generalizations about all suits working in midtown, and all students going into the village, and all Asian bag ladies getting off at Canal Street. Okay, I am.
By Frequency. Get to know the people that you've seen leave seats early on previous morning commutes. That's your best bet.
And lastly, a note about manners. If you are one of the few who still have them, good for you. You will stand up for the elderly, disabled or with-child. But these are the only times when you should let your guard down and the politeness in.
The majority of the general public doesn't give a crap about your gender or physical state; they will take a seat in a heartbeat, regardless of whether you think you're entitled or that you're standing directly in front of it. Remember, kill or be killed. You will dart over the feet of others, push through the idiots who think it's okay to stand against the poles, cut in front of the asshole who tries to trick you into thinking he just needs to get to the door, or if needed, throw your bag/coat/whatever you have in your hands onto the empty seat before someone else's ass hits it first.
We all gotta survive somehow.