Subway sightings

subwaySubway étiquette is a real thing. Some people follow it, some people don’t. Some people are just crazy. Even the ones who aren’t actually crazy.

Standing from Brooklyn to the Garment District is trying, but here’s the scoop on sitting in the subway: If you do sit, you should give up your seat for an elder. But then if they’re not old enough, there’s a chance you could offend them with your offer. You should get up for pregnant women, but if you’re mistaken about there being a baby in that tummy, you could be in trouble. You should generally give up a seat for people with small children, but if you accidentally punch the kid for using you as a jungle gym and screaming in your face, you could have a little problem on your hands. The best thing to do is either not sit or arbitrarily rise without pointing out your seat to any one person in particular. But most people don’t do that. Most people–including able-bodied young gentlemen who should regularly be offering up their seats–just stare at their phones, never noticing another’s need to sit.

Whether you get a seat to the theater that is the NY subway or not, there’s plenty to see from standing room only. You might catch a singer, you’ll always hear a long-winded lament and sometimes you’ll just find a vagrant mid morning routine.

I boarded a Manhattan-bound F train one morning to find a man taking up five seats, which is a crime in NYC (an actual crime) and bathing himself in rubbing alcohol. He doused his face and neck before moving on to his right arm and then left. People were staring. One woman immediately changed cars.

But he wasn’t sitting in a cloud of stench or asking for money or holding up cardboard signs displaying his plight. He didn’t bother anyone but those who couldn’t tear their eyes away. I wondered if they pitied him or were internally griping about the number of seats he occupied.

He proceeded to sort his possessions, everything had a place. He spooned out one scoop of Bustelo coffee, added it to another repurposed jar with water and pulled a paper towel from the messenger bag strapped across his bare chest. He took out some anti-fungal cream, touched up a few spots and then took his morning tablet.

It was odd and not all at once. He may not have had a home, but he was doing his best to take care of himself and there was really nothing shocking about it. Then again, nothing is shocking in NYC. Especially the things you see in the subway.
*NOTE: It would seem that I too was staring at this man, but I was observing discreetly from the back of the train.