Riding the subway today, like any other day, I notice some of the unconscious gestures I do everyday, just like the other zombie riders who are sleeping on their feet like horses.
I buy a coffee and bagel and start my way down the stairs and into the station.
1. Never wait for the crowd to trickle out before you go down the stairs. This being New York, it never will and you would have lost precious minutes and gotten frustated. Not to mention the crazy riders sneering at you like the country bumkin you are. Instead, glide thru, using the right side of the stairs and bumping into people as they come along. They WILL open a path for you, trust me.
2. Slide the card on the turnstile, not too fast, not too slow. Otherwise the turnstile will have fun with you for a really long time. If turnstiles were people they would be the last to be invited to parties, right after tax auditors.
3. Never ask for a train timetable. You trust in God and in MTA and there is no holier gospel in NYC.
4. If you HAVE TO ASK FOR DIRECTIONS, be on the guard for any little gesture from the answerer, a grunt, a flick of the eyelash, a movement of the lip, a pointing of the chin. Consider yourself lucky if people answer with words, and buy a lottery ticket if you get a full sentence, especially from conductors.
5. Wait on the platform about a step from the yellow marked area and do not yield way to the passing people, unless you are being right-smack in the middle of the way. Then, make way before you get pushed to the wall or the train rails.
6. When passing a busy corridor between stations, remember to follow the same rules as if you were driving, left lane is the fast walkers, middle lane is for daydreamers, and right lane is for preachers, blind beggars and musicians. Look out for weavers. No matter what, do not stop walking or be prepared for pileups and pointed middle fingers.
7. Do not wait for EVERYBODY to get off the train, before you get on it, especially during rush hour. Only tourists do that and it is very annoying.
8. Nobody ever understands what the conductor is saying so do not ask your fellow riders and do not get alarmed if they start yelling. It is the most preferred communication method of conductors.
9. When seating, open your legs and elbows as much as you can and do not retract limbs even if a disgusting and filthy person is matching their thighs to yours, or almost stepping on your foot. They only do that to get you to move, and if you do not give an inch, the miracle will happen and they will make space for you instead.
10. If there are no free seats and you want to sit, watch out for any person dressed well who has a seat but has retracted into it. He/she is most likely to jump out at the next station. Also please look out for anyone slinging their bag on their shoulder, correcting their makeup and folding the newspaper in the pocket. If it is a false alarm, start farting slowly and without sound. They will leave after a while. If you are above ground, loud phone calls in a foreign language may work well too. Sometimes, chinese food take out might also be effective in clearing out a space around you.
11. If panhandlers heckle you, do not answer but pretend you are asleep. Same goes for mariachi bands, crunch dancers, mad preachers, and bootleg CD and DVD sellers.
12. Keep a book with you but remember, people will judge you by the book you carry around. If you want to look smart, Gabriel Garcia Marques is a good choice. Dan Brown on girls is a sign they like to be asked out on a date. Bridget Jones and Interior Decorating Magazines for men is a sign they want to be asked out on a date in Chelsea. Architecture magazines, drawing pads are very sexy on men. Sci-Fi and David Baldacci are also acceptable. Romance means looking for commitment so steer clear of Nora Roberts, Jackie Collins, Daniele Steel etj. the Times crosword is a bit pretentious (especially when being solved in ink) Sudoku is just the right thing.
13. When getting out, do not say “Excuse me” then wait for the answer or for people to move, but push right through while mumbling excuses.
14. You can stop to hear the bands sing, the mimes strike poses or the dancers dance (my favorite is the midget Michael Jackson), but you should give them something. Coins are good for mumbling homeless people but $1.00 is the right rate for real musicians. Trust me, there is more talent in New York Subways than in all the Grammy Show.
Thannk you for riding with the MTA and may you have a pleasant day.