Watch CBS News

Nina In New York: Subway-Eaters, Beware

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

By Nina Pajak

Eating on the subway: Gross? Or a matter of personal preference?

Answer: It's gross. And one State Senator Bill Perkins has put his foot down and said that's all he can stands, he can't stands it no more. So he's proposing a bill that would make chowing down on the train a fineable offense to the tune of $250, for which cost you could just hire your own towncar to drive you all over the city while you dine unperturbed from the backseat. On, Jeeves, and pass the A-1.

More From Nina: Dining A La MTA - A Do Or A Don't?

It's an oft-discussed issue, both in this column and at large. And it seems that the overwhelming majority of people consider eating on the subway to be a pretty dirty thing to do. I'm not talking about taking a few bites of a candy bar. I'm talking about the people who sit down and settle in for a nice, square meal which perfumes the communal air with the hot, inescapable stench of burgers or chicken or french fries or, naturally, spaghetti. And let us not forget my recent incident, in which I witnessed a woman polish off a can of sardines on a crowded morning train, thereby single-handedly making everyone's commute smell like a trip to the wharf. Mmm. Briny.

In my mind, eating on the subway is more than just anti-social behavior. It's filthy. Think of it this way: Would you grab a subway pole and then lick your hand? Of course you wouldn't (but if you answered "yes," let me know and I'll send you some recommendations for good psychiatrists in the area. Or better yet, just Google it, because you're nuts and I'd prefer we keep our distance). I imagine any edible removed from its protective wrapping on a subway train would be immediately magnetized to all manner of germs, dirt, fecal particles, bacteria and cooties floating around in the air. The second you're forced to touch any surface at all, the kitchen really should close.

But okay. Not everybody worries about things like amoebic dysentery or tuberculosis or swine flu. Some people are willing to take their chances. And I suppose that's their right. Similarly, some people don't give a crap about others around them, and they just want to use their time on the train to its full potential, because maybe they can't eat at their jobs or at home beforehand, or in a coffee shop or fast food place or food court or courtyard or anywhere else at all. I guess one could make the argument that that's their right too, but it seems almost moot to me. The fact of the matter is, even if this bill were to be passed, it's never going to go anywhere.

Who in the world is going to enforce this, really? Maybe this lady, but we can't go around encouraging spaghetti-vigilantism. People who want to eat on the subway will continue to do so, either surreptitiously or out in the brazen open under the assumption that their odds of getting caught are pretty minimal. When was the last time you saw anyone get ticketed for an offense on public transportation? Senator Perkins's whole purpose is to prevent food-related litter which attracts rats and other vermin. But littering and spilling food is already against the rules. So is being annoying (seriously), taking up too many seats, playing music, panhandling and defacing posters. And I don't have to be the one to tell you, it isn't exactly Martial Law out there.

No. Let's not waste official time coming up with new laws that will be instantly ignored. I vote for strengthening littering laws and the resources behind them, and simply encouraging people to give more repulsed sneers when confronted with a train-eater. And perhaps Bloomberg can throw up some new PSAs featuring people with mold spores growing on their tongues after choosing to bring that hot dog underground. It'll probably need to be photoshopped, but it could totally probably happen.


Dear Readers: 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.

The Nina Archives:

Goodbye, H&H Bagels

Wakey, Wakey…Eggs And Chalupa

And The Nominees Are…

Taxi Cab Confessions

Who, Us? Rude? Shut Your Mouth.

Dear Tina Fey, I'd Like A Sandwich Please

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.