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📷 Eric Foo
📷 Eric Foo
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10 Things Every New Yorker Does on the Subway

Picture of Amber C. Snider
Home & Design Editor
Updated: 14 June 2017
You know the basics of subway etiquette…or do you?
📷 James Loesch
📷 James Loesch | © Flickr/cc, James Loesch

The basics are pretty obvious: don’t eat last night’s cabbage leftovers on your morning commute (or ever), don’t intensely stare at strangers (unless you’re actively trying to get someone’s digits), and definitely no man-spreading or boomboxes. After years of riding the subway, you become privy to all the unspoken rules and a kind of rhythm ensues in your daily grind. But what are those “unspoken” tendencies? If you’re a New Yorker, here are 10 things that you probably do on the subway without ever even realizing it…

1. Know your platform spot

You walk to that exact section of the subway platform closest to your exit stop, even if it’s all the way at the opposite end of the platform. (New Friend: “Why are we walking to the middle of the platform?” You: “Just trust me. When we get off, this will be the best/closest exit for Grand Street.”). You may not be able to plan your day, or your wardrobe, or your life, but you can definitely plan how much walking you do underground.

And at least you’re not this guy…


2. Mastered the art of the ‘power stance’

You never stand with your feet together when riding the train. It’s all about the “power stance” (feet planted on the floor slightly more than a widths’ length apart). And those who don’t engage in the power stance just get awkwardly jostled around at each curve. At least hold on to something, right? The pole maybe? They’re there for a reason.


3. You prefer silence on your morning commute.

And thankfully everyone else feels the same way. (It’s like an unspoken rule? Pun intended). That one person who’s talking loudly or playing music at 8am either doesn’t live in NYC or is certifiably insane. There’s no in-between.


4. You cringe at the sound of ‘Showwwwwtimeeeee’

The worst sound ever is either a mariachi band or an “it’s shoowwwwtime!!” declaration. Also, whether or not you want to admit it, you’re terrified that one of those kids performing will one day kick you smack in the face while they spin upside down on the pole. It’s not like they’re certified pole dancers? (Or are they…?)

5. You secretly love going above ground in transit

Maybe it’s the view, or maybe it’s your newly restored cell service. Either way, you can finally text your friend to say that you will, in fact, be late. As if they didn’t know already.


6. You wait at the top of the stairs

On really hot or humid days, you wait at the top of the stairs and watch the digital timer for the scheduled train arrival. There’s no use ruining your makeup and getting all sweaty when you don’t have to. As soon as it starts flashing zero, you’ll race down into the humid 5th circle of hell, but not a moment before. And if you remember your Dante, the 5th circle was the swampy, humid river of Styxx. Fitting, right?


7. Giving advice to tourists makes you feel like you’re Mother Theresa

Somehow you can always tell the tourists. Maybe it’s their clothes, or choice of hat, or brightened “soak it all in” facial expressions. But when you see them struggling with a map of any kind, you are confronted with your own moral dilemma: do I offer help or just let them figure it out? You vascillate between ignoring their struggle and extending a hand. On your good days, you eventually chime up and say “where are you headed?” and their look of relief will be all the vindication you need to affirm that you are, despite what your ex-girlfriend says, a good person. And then you’ll milk your good deed all day long.


8. You always know when to cab it

You don’t take the subways after 11pm on a weekend. It’s not because you’re scared or that you think you’ll be robbed during the late night, it’s simply because they. take. so. long. There has yet to be an NYC weekend that doesn’t involve track repairs, delays, “earlier incidents,” and every other express train going local and vice versa. MTA must somehow make it their prerogative to make sure you’re sobered up by the time you make it home – 2 hours later.


9. You’ve got your shaming look down to an art form

You’ve mastered the passive-aggressive head shake. A group of obnoxiously loud teenagers gets on the train after school, a guy thinks it’s okay to cut his fingernails next to you, a woman engorges herself on messy pasta and spicy chicken wings, a man listens to his iPhone without headphones. Rather than verbalize your anger/ resentment/ rage, you just subtly look up every once in a while, frowning, and shake your head in a look that says “Really? Who raised you?”


10. Standing to the side becomes muscle memory

You actually follow entering/exiting protocol. You stand aside or move inwards for people coming on the train (or get off briefly to make room, before resuming your coveted place by the door) and you let everyone out of the train before you race inside. You have a knack for positioning yourself (not directly in front of the doors!) but off to the side so you can beeline your way in and scout a seat if necessary.


11. Subconsciously look for scuff marks on the platform

Bonus: Before the train even comes, you know where the subway doors will be simply by looking down at the condition of the yellow platform. Only “real” New Yorkers would get this one.