Like any good New Yorker, I learned to take the metro (subway). I am now fully dependent on it and am even starting to appreciate it. It’s usually dirty, hot, and crowded. More and more often, my fellow riders are aggressive and straight up weird; but you learn to live with it.
My daily ride is 30 mins, door to door, each way. That’s one full hour of trying not to make eye contact and not falling over. Since I’ve landed in NYC in June, let’s say I’ve ridden about 80 hours on the metro. Here’s what I’ve learned so far (sometimes the hard way):
Give up your seat. This doesn’t happen enough in other cities (ahem, Barcelona) but here it’s pretty universal, which I appreciate. Whenever you see an elderly person, a pregnant women, a person on crutches, or simply a fellow commuter so exhausted from work it looks like they are going to cry, give them your seat.
Let others get off. If you’re waiting to board the train, allow other passengers getting off at that stop to leave first, and then you can board. Keep the flow consistent.
Move out and then move in. During rush hour, if your train car is packed and you’re squashed against the door, step out of the car to let those behind you exit. Then step back in and move down so the new people can fit.
Always move down. People seem to hover near the exits and its always becomes congested. Move down the car and use your space wisely. And please don’t push me…
Don’t push. If it is congested and full, don’t shove the person in front of you. That’s just literally, like, the most obnoxious thing ever. We’re all also trying to get somewhere.
If you’ve had a bad day, don’t make it someone else’s problem. Recently, I’ve felt extremely emotionally exhausted and I’ve imagined myself snapping at the gentleman swinging his briefcase near me on the subway. And then I realize how ridiculous I’m being. I’ve seen other people not realize their ridiculousness and get upset at a swinging briefcase or a careless bump. Be chill.
Do not hold the door open while its closing. This is just plain dangerous and holds everybody up.
Have tough skin. You’re going to see weird shit and you might feel uncomfortable at times. However, if you do see something out right bad/wrong/dangerous/illegal/inappropriate, SAY SOMETHING. Too many people ignore things when they shouldn’t and the subway is a space for everyone, take care of it.
The subway has taught me a lot of things during my short time out here, but it’s mostly taught me about people. While people generally bury themselves in their phone during their ride, I’ve taken it as an opportunity to put mine away and watch. One hour of people watching a day is good for the soul. I see diversity, fashion, character, overhear interesting conversations, languages I don’t recognize, people having a good days and bad days. I’ve seen wealthy businessmen, backpackers, young interns, elderly folks, people on drugs, and people asking for money all on the same train. People in love and people fighting… sometimes at the same time. I’ve observed mothers talking to their babies and showing them the world. Discreet displays of affection between lovers. I’ve met people who simply wanted someone to talk to that morning and others who asked me about my coffee. I’ve had people simply compliment me on my clothes. I’ve encountered people who were not well and others who keep their poker face the entire ride. I’ve seen rats crossing the platform (ew). I’ve had funny situations and scary ones (a man who was not well mentally, screaming until he got off 3 stops later). I guess what I’ve learned from the subway is that we’re all just people. I think we forget that sometimes. That, and empathy. Those are the things the subway taught me.