Tag Archives: In the Subway

Close Your Legs: Tokyo Subway Etiquette Posters

Ever since public transportation became a part of my daily commute in high school, I have ranted and raged against the self-perceived God-given right that an overwhelming number of men seem to think they have: the right to take up as much space as humanly possible, all the time, especially in space-endangered settings—like rush hour buses and subway cars.

Meanwhile, women—largely—attempt to compact themselves into tinier and tinier packages, huddled and squashed, somehow convinced that being forced to take up less than one seat space is totally fine.

It’s not fine.

I hate seat hogs. Hate.

So I glare at them and make snide comments, while I curl up into the most compact sliver of myself that I can, shoulders hunched in, knees pressed together, and leaning slightly forward so that the people next to me can use up some of my “extra” back space.


Just because I feel like a jerk if I am taking up more than my allotted space on a cramped public transport vehicle is no reason for you to basically sit on me. I mean, really.


My favorite thing ever is when some dude manages to take up a full three seats via gratuitous sprawling. If he has bags, maybe he can take up four seats. I am not talking about overweight passengers; I am talking about guys who can fit perfectly well into the transit authority’s pre-determined seat space.


I have lots of subway etiquette rants in me. This one might be the topper, if only because it is so prevalent, combined with the fact that I remember the first time I flung out a diatribe on the subject on a CTA bus in high school.

Really. I do.

I get angry when people cannot function in public spaces. Sue me.


So I really love these subway etiquette posters from Tokyo, dating from 1976 to 1982. The Hitler-Charlie Chaplin one is kind of terrifying, but it makes a strong case for not being a seat hog.

Special shout-out to the Toulouse-Lautrec dance hall parody poster. I have a canvas tote bag silk-screened with the original lithograph.

You know, because I am an art/design history francophile geek.


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Filed under Really.

Nerf, Anyone?

Sometimes I have to take pictures of things found in the subway.

Flag football much?

My Nerf was magenta and bright blue. It was sometime around 1990. I still cannot throw a football.

You know, footballs are not actually ball-shaped.

Why did someone ever give me a Nerf football?

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Filed under Dear Life, Out & About

The F Train Strikes Again



I don’t know if you’ve heard: I hate the F train.

And here is yet another reason for my hate of said train.

Let’s take a look back at my Friday evening, shall we? It was not a good night. Much of that blame lands on the F train, although to be sure, a good portion must be allocated to the spiteful cosmos.

First of all I was feeling a bit off on my way to happy hour in midtown. When the place we wanted to go was packed with a million hour wait, Kathleen, David and I decided to head alllllllll the way uptown to their ‘hood in the hopes of wider drinking pastures.

There were still waits. It was inevitable. Friday was a gorgeous day: hot but dry with a breeze—perfection in the summertime. And so we waited there—way up there, above 100th on the west side.

And then I began to feel more than a little nauseous. To quote Lucille-Two, I sensed the “dizzies” coming, soon to be followed by a departure from consciousness on a Manhattan sidewalk.

I chose another way, only slightly more dignified: I tottered over to a low, filthy marble stoop and sat with my face on my knees.

It was attractive.

At one point, despite sitting down I was hit by yet another urge to leave the world behind. The street before my eyes dimmed, the sidewalk appeared to rock back and forth. Kathleen looked worried. David continued to bargain with the hostess a few yards away.

Once that wave of doom passed, I wondered if it would be worth getting up, walking back to the front of the restaurant and allowing myself to collapse right there. I mean, that would merit expedited seating, don’t you think?

What does all this have to do with the F train? Just wait for it. The F train is Act II.

As you may have astutely inferred, I never got to have my margarita. Other people had margaritas and nachos. I had diet Pepsi and water. And some rice.

After holding down our table for as long as possible, we headed back to a couch since clearly I would not be going out further that evening and was not yet ready to suffer the subway ride home.

Hours pass.

At midnight, I toddle down to the 1 train. Despite inordinately loud and never-ending track announcements, my 1 train experience was lovely. The train came almost immediately and even though they were power washing (story of my life) at Columbus Circle, all was not bad. The D train came right along and I slipped into a coveted seat.

And then it happened. We pulled into 34rd street I suppose, just as an F did the same.

“Oh jolly,” I thought, “An F train, that will save me a few minutes on my walk home, and they never come. What luck.”

What disaster, you mean.

There I am all pleased with myself as the train leaves West 4th.

Then there I am wondering why we haven’t stopped yet.

And then, there we are pulling in to the C-E stop at Spring Street.


Not Broadway-Lafayette. Not Second Avenue. Not even Spring Street on the 6 track. Spring Street at Sixth Avenue.

I almost died right there on the train. Luckily, I managed to scramble out in an effort to minimize my disaster. There was nothing for it. I started to walk.

Did you know that the walk from that stop is nearly two miles to my apartment?

Recall that it is now 1 a.m. on a night during which I have already nearly passed out multiple times—due to not the slightest debauchery, I assure you.

I was haggard. I was gray. I was dragging my corpse-like body through territory far too trendy for me to have had to deal with in that moment. Heels were clacking, lines were roped off, I was cranky.

Why, you might ask, did I not take a cab?

Because I am poor. That is why I have a blog.

Obviously. If I was gainfully employed, would I have time to watch nearly every World Cup game and generally rant here all the time? No. I would not.

It was a bad night.


Filed under Dear Life

Happy Easter: I Hate People, Especially in the Subway

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After a heady night of live-tweeting the annual television broadcast of that cinematic masterpiece The Ten Commandments, it was time to head uptown for some church-going followed by Easter brunch and fun. The sun was shining, the breeze was warm, the F train behaved itself beautifully and I even made a delightfully timed transfer to the B/D, which is where all the trouble began.

First of all, I cannot even tell you whether I was on a B or a D train because on the weekends such minutiae  are immaterial to the MTA, which prides itself on ever-changing weekend routes and schedule, an utterly inaudible public address system and a malevolent sense of whimsy regarding the fate of its passengers.

This is a rant.

So there I am–listening to some Bishop Allen on my iPod, fully reflective sunglasses still propped on my nose despite the undergroundness, brunch supplies safely stowed in a large tote– just minding my own business. At Columbus Circle the long and foreboding announcements make their appearance. I pause the music and attempt to decipher the message, which indeed did sound a lot like a recent New York Magazine reconstruction:

“”Ladies and ____lemen the ___ stop will be ______erhorn. To repeat, the ___ stop will be Broad____ . If you are traveling to ____lin Street _____ now and ____for the ______ train on the ____bound track.”

The train continued to idle as the driver repeated his instructions a few times and I slowly came to what I thought was a sense of clarity regarding my transport destiny. My understanding was that my train would run express to 96th Street and then switch to local service. My destination being 103rd, I thought to myself, “Perfection.”

Mind you, the train is still idling inexplicably and the announcements are droning on and on as more passengers enter the subway car. Also keep in mind that according to New York Magazine, the D train is one of the top three worst lines for announcement clarity and that overall 55% of subway announcements are unintelligible. Note it.

An older man boards my car, looks right at me (you remember, the girl listening to her ipod, reading a magazine and wearing sunglasses so as not to be disturbed) and asks, “Is this training going to 96th?”

At first I ignored him since clearly I was not to be interacted with, but once I realized that for some reason he had chosen to discuss the matter with me, I confirmed.

Downhill, downhill, downhill.

The train did not stop at 96th. It did not stop at 103rd. It did not stop at 110th. It did not stop until 125th Street. As the B/D zoomed through 96th the old man got up, walked over to my seat where I was thinking, “Oh crap, good thing I was running early because this is mucho unfortunate,” and started to scream at me about subway direction etiquette.

In case you are wondering, subway direction etiquette involves not lying to people whose days you are clearly trying to sabotage. Clearly. Nevermind that it was an honest mistake, nevermind that he had chosen to ask an unapproachable person for information, nevermind that the MTA is notoriously useless on the weekends and unintelligible in general, and lastly: nevermind that I too had obviously missed my stop and would have to backtrack (along with half the passengers on the train based on what happened once we pulled into 125th Street and all crossed platforms together).


Might I add that I did in fact apologize, even though clearly one asks strangers for weekend subway advice at your risk.

The topper?

A lady sitting across the way turns to him in the middle of his rant and says, “Oh yes, we’re going to 125th Street, you’ll have to go up the stairs and cross over to the other track.”

She had been sitting there through the entire slurry of announcements, had clearly noted that not only was I mistaken but that I was accidentally misleading this crazy old man and had not said a word, until the opportunity to be uppity about it came along.

I hate people.

On the upside, a C Train showed up almost immediately and I made it to my destination on time. On the downside, my Easter morning was no longer idyllic, but just an average angry New York weekend-subway-riding fiasco.

Then in my attempt to be a good person, I went to church and almost passed out due to the horrendous over-use of incense. Thanks.

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Filed under Dear Life

Advice in the Subway

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UPDATED: March 21, 2010

Yesterday I took a ride on the 1 train again. Maybe I was looking for paper towels, maybe I have become enamored of the Upper West Side or maybe I was on my way to an interview feeling cranky about having to wear nylons for the sake of decorum.

At any rate, a trio of a capella singing men came through the subway car somewhere above 42nd Street. Personally I was jamming to “James River Blues,” but as we neared the next station and they wrapped up their bit by asking for donations, one of the men handed out a bit of life advice:

“Smile– It’s good for your health,  prevents those forehead wrinkles! And if that doesn’t help, then try fiber!”

And you know, everyone that I was facing on the car did crack a smile. Some of us giggled.

So… how are you doing on smiles/ fiber today?


Filed under Out & About

Money Poor with Kathleen

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One of these days, Kathleen‘s blog will get up and running. Until then, it is my responsibility to bring these little nuggets of joy into your life.

Imagine that you are in the New York City subway heading to the Upper West Side on the delightful 1 train. And upon my feet, what do you see?

A roll of Whole Foods 365 brand paper towels just lying there– fully wrapped, fully abandoned.

If you are Kathleen you turn to me with a raised eyebrow and ask, “Is it too gross to take these? Is it too sad?”

I reply, “Actually, if you hadn’t said something, I probably would have.”

When you are money poor you learn that beggars can’t be choosers.

Sure, it was a little embarrassing. Sure, I contemplated how to look as though I wasn’t really with her– that I had no connection to this crazy woman picking household goods off the floor of a subway station in midtown.

Afterwards we crammed onto the uptown 1, paper towels stowed under Kathleen’s arm. We decided that since every penny saved is an extra penny towards our new life dream of learning how to speed skate (based on Kathleen’s family being in Ballston Spa & our strong thighs, plus a little residual Olympic fever) that we had made the right choice. As I get out the one liner that was much better in person, a woman standing nearby turned to us with a questioning face, turned away and then turned back to us and said, “Wait what?”

So then we had to explain the paper towels, explain my love of short track, how I am job hunting, our speed skating pact (glad I’m publicizing that here… ) et cetera, et cetera. Then I ended up noting that I would probably write about it in my blog and let me tell you, I have never been sorrier that I have yet to have personal business cards made up. I bet I could have had one more reader after that exchange.

Oh sigh.

At any rate: Kathleen was really happy about the paper towels, a New York subway experience of bizarreté was had and we got a few great pictures too. Plus, our destination was her new apartment sans furniture or napkins for the celebratory pizza and beer.

So you see, Kathleen knew what she was doing when she sacrificed her dignity and took paper towels out of the subway.

And this is just how life is when you are a poor twenty-something trying to live the life in Manhattan. Some people go on food stamps, some people sell their eggs, others walk to and from work and when a monsoon forces them to indulge in a metro card payment they pillage the offerings of subway stations.

It happens.


Filed under Adventures, Creatively Broke, Dear Life

F Train News Again, Part III

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And now the F train is torturing Brooklyn specifically, which truly doesn’t really bother me, but since the F is clearly one of my trending topics, let’s all thank Molly for the tip on this tale.

New York Magazine The short story.

New York Post The full story.

More from me on the topic: The F Train & The Ghost F Train

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