Subway Education

Once on the subway a nine-year-old girl tried to shame-stare me into giving up my seat. Her hair was in braided pigtails, at least one item of her clothing had sparkles, and she was wearing a backpack. Luckily I am an accomplished starer, so I was unmoved. Also, I believe in Subway Education.

Where I grew up, there was no subway system. In fact, my first two months in NYC I was so scared of the complicated colourful subway map that I used the subway exactly five times (I had to build in a lot of walking time). So I fully admit that I may not have had what it takes to survive as a subway youth. But these kids growing up on the subway, they’ve got to learn the rules and regulations of subway travel.

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#1 If you can snag a seat, never give it up.

Exceptions to this include pregnant woman, little kids, old people, and people with handicaps. Or, if you’re an asshole, none of the above.

Why then, you wonder, did I refuse to give my seat to the little girl. This really applies more to children who are six and under, are adorable, and say the darnedest thing. Plus, this girl hit me with an accusatory look before I even had a chance to react, so I had to teach her a lesson.

#2 Do not make eye contact.

You are on a subway full of strangers. Most of them are weird. Some are crazy. Many are carrying illness and disease. These are not your friends.

Kids don’t understand this. To them, the subway is one big carpool, except they don’t even know what carpool is. They say adorable things that would sound crazy coming out of an adult’s mouth. And they stare with their moppet-sized eyes. As a human being with emotions, you can’t help but eavesdrop on their babblings and trade smiles. Which is cool and all, until you get the stink-eye from their parent.

Eye contact is dangerous. On the subway, pretend that you are a robot.

#3 There is a fine line between a little cough and becoming a subway leper.

As much as you don’t trust anyone on the subway, they don’t trust you. The slightest hint of illness — a little cough, a tiny sniffle — is proof of your probable status as Patient Zero. If that behaviour is continued, you will incur looks of disgust, the likes of which you have never known. Make sure to give as good as you get. Practice in the mirror.

#4 If the subway car smells, switch to a new one at the first possible opportunity.

#5 Someone invented earbuds/headphones because the music you are listening to is supposed to be just for you.

If anyone else can hear it, your music is too loud. If anyone else can discern the lyrics, it’s really too loud. Also, you’ve killed your eardrums, so enjoy your rapidly onsetting deafness.

#6 if you are reading or watching something on the subway, you shouldn’t act all pissy if someone is trying to figure out what it is.

A lady reading her People magazine did not appreciate me looking at it over her shoulder. And a man once offered me an earbud because I was trying to guess the movie he was watching (Meet Joe Black). I was not wounded by either encounter.

#7 You are not going to live happily ever after with the guy you made eyes at on the subway.

Unless you do.

It happens.

But probably not.

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On that same subway ride as the shame-staring little girl, a baby saw me drinking my smoothie and threw a major fit.

Mmm, that was a really good smoothie.