Every now and then, you hear stories in NYC of bad things happening on the subways: Violence, theft, an occasional crazy man in the nude… It’s enough to make any New Yorker choose to hop in a taxi instead of walk down the creepy subway stairs, seven blocks away from their apartment. But, for those of us whose bottomless pit of cab fare does not exist, there are approximately five main concerns each day on the crowded trains to be aware of.
#1. There are creepy and weird people surrounding you. And the worst is when someone sneezes on you. The person sometimes turns out of politeness, for the people in front of them to sneeze, and yet they always end up turning to face the direction of… you! When those drops of moisture land on your face or arm, you find yourself in quite a helpless state. Much like when the train is packed full, but you spot one open seat and think, “Aha! My lucky day!” So you sit down just to realize that the man next to you who’s curled against the window, is homeless and has a stench that you’re not sure will ever leave your memory. Then, you notice everyone else looking at you with a sigh of sympathy. They knew!
#2. Almost every day, either you will fall on someone or someone will fall on you. If it’s you, you sometimes can’t help but act like you meant to trip. I did that the other day when I lunged forward and somehow decided that making it seem like I was just dancing, was an appropriate reaction. False. My boyfriend just shook his head. But the embarrassment usually passes after a few minutes. So, when my boyfriend said to me one day, “I have a hilarious train story to tell you,” I was all smiles – but not for long. Apparently, a young woman wasn’t holding on to a pole or rail and fell backward when the train started. Understandable. She reached behind her for stability – also understandable. Poor girl. She wobbled around while trying to find something to hold and keep her balance, and what did her hands end up grabbing? My boyfriend’s you know what. … Nice move, missy! And apparently, her way of showing off embarrassment was turning around, laughing her head off, (probably batting her eyelashes) and apologizing a thousand times – I didn’t like this story. So, when you’re riding the subway, watch out for men-hungry women (or just people who are too distracted to remember to hold on).
Also, look out for anyone who seems to be way too eager to leave the train. I was waiting for the doors to open so I could exit one morning, and a man next to me was doing a very strange hop in place. Then, when the doors began to open, he knocked me out of the way and ran to the stairs while flapping his arms as if he’s flying to his next destination. You never know when you’re next to a man who thinks he’s a bird!
#3. Every time the conductor sounds a little off or confused to me, I’m convinced the train has been taken over. Is this just an issue for me? No one else? Well, I basically live out ‘The Taking of Pelham 123′ every day in my head. I’ve heard a conductor announce, “The next stop is 59th street” and I panic because I know that’s wrong. Then, “Excuse me, 42nd street. The next stop is 42nd street” and I wonder, “Is he trying to tell us something? Is something wrong? Where’s Denzel when you need him?!”
If this isn’t a problem for anyone else, then I will take that back and replace it with the daily danger of train doors – I don’t recommend sticking your arm in between them as they close, because they don’t always open back up 100% when there’s a blockage. In my experience, they open a few inches and then try to close again. I’ve gone through with my arm stuck, then my shoulder and head stuck, then my hip stuck, before finally getting in. And after all that struggle, no one claps for you – no one smiles. They don’t appreciate your early morning victory of conquering the subway! They just need to get to work. It’s a lonely experience.
#4. You’re forced to listen to a mash-up of songs. Forgetting your own, personal iPod is the worst mistake you can make on the subway. More of a book person? I’ll address the problem with that in #5. Anyway, if your iPod isn’t on, you have a mix of house music, Beyonce, Jay-Z (aww, husband and wife), and other rap and hip-hop artists I’ve never even heard of, surrounding you. That can be annoying in the early morning hours, yes. However, what’s sometimes worse is when you’re loving the song someone is playing a couple of seats away from you. Taylor Swift? A Fine Frenzy? Ingrid Michaelson? Hello! Music to my ears. Literally. Anyway, when someone’s near you who has your exact same music taste, you want to slowly get closer to their seat so you can enjoy the tunes. That can be a bit awkward – you need to be stealth in your movement. But when that could-be-friend of yours gets up to leave, you’re left wishing, once again, that you had just remembered to unplug your iPod before you left for work – gosh! And then on the rest of your trip, you try to decipher what that rapper is so angry about in the headphones of the guy on the other side of you.
#5. When you finally start getting into your new book, a mariachi band hops on. Always. And if it’s not the mariachi band, it’s a group of 2-5 teenage boys who greet you with the always startling, “Showtime folks, it’s showtime!” More than once, I’ve sat in the area they decided to perform/dance/flip in. More than once, I’ve given my fellow commuters even more entertainment than they were expecting, thanks to my face of panic when one of the kids does a flip and almost kicks me in the head. I’ve had a woman across from me point and laugh because of my reactions – actually, howl would be the right word. That’s not my favorite after-work activity.
So be careful on the subways, friends. They are full of surprises – but being aware of these 5 things should help your trips. And hold on to the rails, please. No one needs their boyfriend groped by a stranger.
You can read more from Kelsey Hanlon on her blog.