Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Subway Chronicles

I'd like to open this post with a disclaimer: I grew up in suburbia. Everyone in my family had a car by the time they turned 16, and before that, we had parents who were able to drive us to and from school, track practice, little league, etc. Public transit was never a big part of my life - it was something we'd use only when we thought parking was going to be too much of a pain in downtown Atlanta. It was a cheap and fairly safe alternative but never a preferred use of transportation. It was inconvenient for the most part, dirty, and rather slow. And I'll admit, that may sound snobby or pretentious, but that's simply how it was for me. I took it for granted growing up but that's just the way things were.

However, since I moved to New York, the tables have turned. In addition to not owning a car up here, I've found that cars are not the preferred mode of transportation, especially during rush-hour. Everyone takes the subway or the bus for the most part to get wherever they need to go. It's efficient for the most part, cheap and usually a much faster route than taking a cab on a daily basis. I'll admit, this has been an adjustment for me, taking public transit everywhere I go...but I've learned the system pretty well and I even do the "pre-walk" to save time. But there are some things I simply haven't been prepared for and I'd like to document those things here.

Sexual Harassment: Yep. I can't lie. I've been a victim to sexual harassment on the subway. For 3 months I've heard the MTA conductors repeatedly tell me "A crowded subway is no defense to unlawful sexual conduct. If you have been a victim of a crime or a witness to a crime, please notify a police office or an MTA employee." Sure enough, crowded subway, 5 foot tall latino man with his fist basically on my ass. At first, I thought it was a backpack or something, then I felt fingers. What did I do? Turned around yelled at him in front of 50 complete strangers and he backed off. Did he think I wouldn't notice? What is wrong with people?? And of course he pretended to have a language barrier - sorry buddy but sexual harassment is all the same no matter what language you speak.

The Unavoidable B.O.: I'll admit, this has gotten better since the cooler months have arrived, but back in September, I can't tell you the number of times I'd get on the crowded L train and be greeted with an unmistakable foul odor coming from someone holding the top rails of the train. I get it, it's hot out, and people sweat, but it's called deodorant. Do yourself and all of us a favor and buy some. Now.

The Subway Crotch Crisis: When I'm lucky enough to snag a seat on the subway, I usually take the time to catch up on some reading but from time to time, I forget my book, or I simply want to people watch. On those days, I've found myself face to face with many a man's crotchal area. The subway rails are positioned such that someone seated will be at eye level with the average standing man's zipper area if he's holding the top rail and facing the seated passenger. The more crowded the subway, the closer your face will be to his crotch. It's unavoidable. Sometimes, the man might be rather attractive, and the jeans or suit pants might be just tight enough that you begin to wonder...Other times it's not pretty. Once I came face to crotch with a 270 pound man wearing an orange sweatshirt that was too small for him, revealing an exposed belly that hung over his jeans. So in addition to the crotch in my face, I had an uncomfortable silent conversation with his 100 lb overweight belly. It was gross and definitely NOT my idea of a good time.

Despite all of these horrors of the subway, I still use it as my preferred mode of transportation. The fact that I can get from the UES to Chelsea or Brooklyn for $2.25 is worth the potential unpleasantness I might face while on the trip.

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