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Nina In New York: George Orwell Never Had to Ride the Subway

A young professional's take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.

By Nina Pajak

This morning, like most others, I flung myself into the doorway of the crowded #1 train. I slithered my way through the crowd of people who all insisted on cramming into the door area rather than filtering further into the car. I battled my way to where I'd spotted a hole in the pack, close enough to reach a pole. And I would have grabbed it, were it not for some chick who had her phone in one hand and a giant Starbucks cup in the other, casually wrapping her entire body around the pole that at least twelve other people would have been sharing if she could have waited two minutes to start playing Brickbreaker.

Now, I don't care who you are, where you came from, or how long you've been in this city. There are certain standards of mass transit etiquette to which everyone must adhere. You shouldn't need a handbook to know not only that other people exist, but that there are dozens of them in your immediate square footage. It's beyond me.

So what's the recourse here? Do I tap her on the shoulder, get her attention and then say, "excuse me?" That seems too reasonable. Do I sneer audibly and roll my eyes and shake my head to whomever around me notices? Yes. But that does not get me any useful result other than an opportunity to act irritated. I've seen people yell loudly at others to move, lecture doorway blockers, and violently shove people out of their way. But it takes a special kind of disgruntled New Yorker to be that guy, and I'm just not there yet.

I'm afraid the etiquette of dealing with subway etiquette offenders is too burdensome on the innocent, so the creeps just get away with their bad behavior. We need a better system! Perhaps the MTA could install little CCTV cameras in the cars so someone could catch offenders in the act. Some governing body who might oversee and manage riders' behavior. I don't know, like a sort of big brother watching over us. I'm not sure if anyone has ever thought of this before, but I see it working out:

"Dear jerks, get out of the way of the door when people are entering or exiting the train. Nobody wants to have to touch you. Especially you, sir, with the filthy coat."

"Hey lady, wait until everyone is off before you get on the train. If you were that important, you wouldn't be taking the subway anyway."

Nothing works like a public shaming! And lots of MTA conductors already make furious editorial announcements, to every passenger's delight. Why not just institutionalize that? Right? Am I right? Aah, I'm right.

Plus, it would probably cut down on things like littering, theft, and brazen nose picking. Do you think we don't see you? We see you, and it's gross.


What do you think about NYC subway etiquette? Let us know in the comments section…

Dear Readers: I'll now be writing about city life every day from now on. While I am rarely at a loss for words, I'm always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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