Opinion | Columns

How to ride the train

 I was hoping I wouldn’t have to do this. I really was. But I’ve seen one too many “haha can u believe this guy is eating cheese on the train!” and “10 Ways to Ride the Train like a New Yorker” that are just so ridiculously unhelpful (but, all right, funny) that I’m left with no options. 

I am going to dedicate the space on this page, this very valuable and coveted space, to teach you (well, not you, per se—you might be one of the good ones) how to ride the train like the efficient machine that this city mandates you become.

All right, what are my credentials? I once posted a status about teaching people to move to the center of the train and it got around 80 likes. So there’s popular support for this. Also, when I’m wearing heels, I’m still faster than about 75 percent of this city, so take note. 

The goal of this class is to get you (again, this is a very broad use of the word "you"—feel free to exempt yourself if you’re not an idiot) to have a successful trip on the train without making people around you want to push you and/or themselves in front of a train. You will be graded based on a demonstrated ability to elicit zero glares, side eyes, pushes, shoves, or under-breath mutterings from those around you. 

First, let’s talk about walking. There’s really only one thing you need to know: Walk. I don’t care if you’re texting, talking, changing your clothes, making dinner—while you’re on the sidewalk, street, or subway platform, you walk. Doesn’t bother me what you’re doing, as long as you’re stepping with speed in a direction, any direction. If you can’t walk, stay to the right. Like, press yourself to the wall or storefront or whatever is on the rightmost side and you can crawl alongside there. 

This is most important when you are walking in those underground passages between train stations—think the A/C/E to the 1/2/3 at Times Square. You are responsible for making sure that no one misses a train due to slow walkers who merge together into a Great Wall of China situation. Because, who knows? If someone misses a train because of you, next thing you know, they get fired from their job, kicked out of their house, and die on the street. This shit matters, man. 

What happens when you get to the train or bus? Sure, you can let people out first. You can also walk in if there’s room. But it damn well be all the way. Do not settle down by the door until the inside of the train is filled. Reach up to those bars. Hang on to those poles. Stand wherever you can to avoid leaving a gaping hole in the middle of the bus if there are still people trying to get on. Better that your questionable underarm scent waft over the straphanger sitting beneath you than five people miss the train because you won’t move your sad little self to the middle or back of the car. 

Let’s review real quick: Walk. Move to the inside of the vehicle. Good? Moving on. 

Sit however you want. If there are seats available and you want to do that special squat-crouch thing—with your legs spread, your elbows on your thighs, and that solidly executed I-couldn’t-care-less-about-anything-in-the-world look—go for it. It’s not just limited to men, as the “Men Taking Up Too Much Space On The Train” Tumblr would have you believe—I do it, lots of ladies do it. Stack your bags on the seat next to you (whether it's your crisp brown Whole Foods bag, your dirty hand-me-down backpack, or your millions of plastic bags—because you’re a loveable bag lady like that). Sprawl across the bench. Take up five seats. Make yourself an empire. But be ready to move your stuff and yourself the second there is any demand for one of the seats in your conquered territory. 

Also, dude, seriously, get up for the pregnant women, the elderly, the babies, and families with babies. Don’t look around at everyone else to see who will do it. That’s dumb. Chances are, someone will even flash you a rare smile if they catch you giving up your seat, and that’s worth everything, isn’t it?

The good part of all this? You can do whatever you want. The best part? I can judge you. 

Ayelet Pearl is a Barnard College and Jewish Theological Seminary senior majoring in political science. Pearls of Wisdom runs alternate Wednesdays.

To respond to this column, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.

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