Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sardines in a tin (aka riding the subway)

I don't feel like New York City is overcrowded. But the subways sure are.

This morning the violin guy at my 6 station played "My Country Tis of Thee." I don't know why, but it sounds very forlorn when he plays it...this lonely violin that occasionally doesn't hit the right notes but sounds beautiful and tortured nonetheless.

I had plenty of time to enjoy the song over and over, because as usual the 6 train was packed. I've tried many different techniques: going to work before 8:30 AM. Waiting until 9:15 AM. The only strategy that consistently works is calling in sick.

It's not inherently a given that the subways will be crowded. Sometimes I get lucky and the train is practically empty. But all it takes is one police investigation or one stalled train or "an earlier incident" as the disembodied announcer sometimes says and the whole system gets thrown off.

When I walk into a packed station, I usually wait against the wall for all the super aggressive riders to get their trains and then step forward myself. Admittedly I sometimes I am that aggressive rider -- I force my way through the crowd; anything to make sure I get on the next train. It sucks when you're running on a tight schedule and the subways are crowded.

But I'm not the worst person. I try to put it in perspective -- I used to be this crowded for an hour on the Metro North trains when there was a problem. In comparison, this is nothing. The people that really kill me are:

  1. The ones standing outside who ask people on the train to move in a little bit. Yeah sure. because there's plenty of room in here! Oh, you mean that huge gap in the middle? We should move there??!? Hold on -- nope, there is no goddamn gap! These people are most likely at 33rd St, 59th St, or some other middle station that gets screwed. I feel for you. Now shut the eff up and wait for the next train.
  2. The ones who squeeze on the train where there really is no room. You know who you are. I really try not to do this. There is nothing worse than some hot, smelly, sweaty dude pressing into your back for a 7-stop ride. Throw in bad breath, and you've got a police investigation in the making.
  3. The ones standing by the door who do not let people off at stations. Yeah, ok, the train is crowded. And yes there are a ton of people waiting to get on. But if you are standing right in front of the door that is opening at a station, you need to get out and let the people off the train!
  4. The ones having the obnoxious loud conversation. I realize this is a personal OCD thing of mine. There certainly is no rule saying that the subway has to be silent. But I hate it when two guys start talking about who they're going to bang tonight or two chicks start talking about their gawd awful friend so and so who is always trying to make everything about her blah blah please just shut up! I don't mean to be rude, but if my MP3 player is up loud enough for other people to hear and I can still hear you, you need to shut up. Speaking of which...
  5. The ones playing their music really loud. Some of them play their music so loud it hurts my ears, and I'm not even the one playing it. There is no excuse. They're like the burbanites who have extremely loud bass systems. I don't get it.
In the summer when there are tons of tourists, I think residents do a great job of being much more patient about this kind of stuff. You can always tell who the tourists are -- they have wide eyes as they are being squished ever closer together. But come fall all bets are off and you will get packed closer and closer and closer until you become one glob that only a spoon could pry out.

Sounds yummy, right? At least in the winter, it keeps me warm.

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