My guide to subway etiquette. How to behave properly on the best/worst way to get around in New York City.
Some people say that New York City has the best and the worst of everything. Sometimes this dichotomy can apply to one thing at the same exact time in this city. Yes, I’m talking about the subway. While it can often be the fastest way to get around town here, it’s not always the most pleasant. No, it will never be a glamorous ride most likely; however, I think if all of us New Yorkers (and visitors) did our part to behave a little better on the subway, we would all be a bit happier on our daily commutes.
I know I’m not alone when I say that I encounter some manners faux pas almost daily that makes me cry out “Why?!” to myself on this mode of transportation. While the MTA has done its part to encourage manners as we travel throughout Manhattan and the other boroughs – perhaps some of you are familiar with the Courtesy Counts campaign, we can still do better. Honestly, to me, some of my tips are straight up common sense. But what do I know – I believe it was Voltaire who said “common sense is not so common.”
Anyway, here are my tips addressing some of my biggest subway pet peeves. Apparently I’m qualified – last September I’ll have lived in either Manhattan or Brooklyn for 10 years which supposedly means I’m now considered native despite growing up in the ‘burbs.
- Respect others’ personal space (to the best of the circumstances): Yes, the trains get crowded especially during rush hour times, but if you’re in a relatively empty car it’s polite to find a seat that allows others to also have ample space. I’ll never forget that I once observed someone get on a relatively empty train and pick a seat right next to someone else – despite that there were numerous open seats throughout the car. I almost thought this person was going to sit on the other’s lap they got so close. On the other hand, if you find yourself on a really crowded car, do your best to make room for people. Don’t keep your bulging backpack on while others struggle to reach for something to hold onto as the train is moving.
- Don’t cling to the pole as if you can’t stand on your own two feet or you have an upcoming audition at Scores: Others might want some room to hold on during the sometimes bumpy rides. Also, try your best not to lean directly on other riders’ hands.
- Keep your music to yourself: Not everyone shares your love of Celtic choir music, Little Wayne, or that new true crime podcast. Get yourself a pair of headphones and adjust the volume to a reasonable level.
- I would think this one goes with out saying: but apparently it doesn’t since it’s also on the MTA’s Courtesy Counts list. Don’t clip your nails on the subway. Just. Don’t.
- Remember that accidents happen: don’t become irrate if someone accidentally bumps into you on a very packed train. If you’re that into personal space, perhaps an Uber would be a better option.
- This one’s for all the chatty Cathys: no one really wants to have a conversation with strangers on the subway. I’ll assist lost tourists or someone asking for directions, but generally, I’m not looking to get into in-depth conversations on the subway. Recently, I took out my earphones for a few minutes to read an article and of course I was interrupted by some guy who wanted to chat (luckily this actually doesn’t happen very often). To my horror, I learned he was going to Bay Ridge – all the way at the end of the R line. This meant I would now have to chat until I got to where I was going. I can never figure out how to politely extricate myself from these conversations. Suffice it to say, the earphones will stay in going forward.
- Stay in your lane: When exiting via the stairs, remember to stay in one lane so others can get down as you go up. This seems like common sense, but every.single.day. I see people flouting this subway norm. I know many people who are annoyed by this. In fact, there is a guy who always seems to be coming down the stairs as I am going up them at the stop I get off at for work. Of course, he can never get down the stairs, because people exiting the train flood both sides of the stairwell. More than once, I’ve heard him mutter “animals. animals! you’re all animals!” Honestly, he isn’t wrong. Also while we’re talking about getting off the train – do let others off before you get on!
What are your public transportation pet peeves? And, if I’ve turned you off to the subway entirely – do check out my post from last year on Taxi and Uber tipping etiquette.