Ok, I’ve made my observations and this is what I have to say about it. The subway is the great equalizer. Young, old, rich, poor, from every corner of the globe, we converge underground in silver capsules that roar through tunnels transporting us to and fro.
A true reflection of the social experiment that is NYC. We are squished up against each other like an orgy we want no part in. Amazingly enough, we ride without killing each other. When you think about who’s fighting each other in the world and who is riding next to each other on the metro, it’s pretty amazing.
Having said that, the underground is far from civilized. Although the carnage is subtle, the distain we display for our fellow riders is palpable. Baby strollers get used as weapons to run over your feet and clear you out of the way. You come to your stop in a full train and have to raise your voice, “Excuse me, coming out!” and still nobody moves! So you fight to get out. Fight past the people already stampeding in. Fight past the tourist who decided to come to a stand still in front of the closing doors to look at their map. So let me spell it out for you, “Stand clear of the closing doors!” Let the people OUT first and then move into the train so that others behind you may also get in! My favorite moment of terror is when you are on a steep escalator and the person just in front of you has paused on the landing right in front, a burst of adrenaline courses through your body as you say, “Excuse me!” hoping you don’t run them over, fall down the stairs in a fifty person pile up! MOVE! It’s dangerous!
The train is the fastest way to traverse the city. Unfortunately, the most unpleasant.
I remember as a kid one could engage in idle chit chat from time to time with a fellow passenger, sometimes there was even a smile, or flirtatious eye contact. Those days are gone. Armed with our iPods, smart phones, papers and electronic tablets we no longer have to acknowledge anyone’s presence ever again, were it not for the dank smell! If the smells don’t gross you out, the people shoveling food into mouths that chew openly like pigs in slop will. The slurping of hot coffee and concealed beer, the crunching of chips as crumbs fall dangerously close to me, the dripping of ice cream from the hands of unruly children that smear the poles with stickiness are enough to make me cringe. Hand sanitizer is not enough. If I wasn’t afraid to be seen as a freak, I’d ride wearing surgical cloves, afraid to touch the pole, provided I could actually reach it. Vile.
The noise pollution is perhaps worse than the trash variety. The screeching of trains against tracks that is so loud it hurts, teenagers yelling their conversations at each other like they were the only ones on the train, screaming babies, blasting music, high pitched humming and the musical acts that are imposed on us are enough to support the entire headache medicine industry if not partially.
Watching the rats scurry along the track (at $2.50 a ride you’d think they could spring for a bit of rat poison), impatiently awaiting the train which is late, I think we have become just like the rodents I loath, but lower, because our ability to reason takes away all excuses for the behavior I witness. There is no reason on earth why pregnant women, women laden with packages and children, elderly and crippled should be standing while able-bodied men slouch down in their seats with their legs spread open as a way of claiming more space around them. Gross! Unacceptable! Did these people not have parents to teach them basic civility? Were their parents just as bad? Or simply, have we reached a threshold in society where things are so autonomous, so hard, so crowded, so tiring, so overwhelming that we just no longer give a rat’s ass about our fellow man because our own self preservation just sucks the life juice right out of us?
I still feel that New York is the best city in the world. I just wish it felt that way more often from the human fiber of the city, not just our buzz or attractions.
Written by Samantha von Sperling for T2C.