5 People You Meet on the Subway

New York City mass transit is one of the most amazing things in the world, if you ask me. For $2.25 you can pass your way through all 5 buroughs, rub elbows with business men and bums, and maybe even get to second base with a stranger. It’s seriously genius. After you’ve spent some time riding the subway, especially during a rush hour commute, you start to seem similarities in your fellow passengers. I’ve realized, there are pretty much 5 kinds of people you’ll find yourself sharing a ride with:

1) The Solicitor – while the law states it’s illegal to solicit money from other passengers while riding the subway, this doesn’t stop a large number of NYC-residents from hitting the cars with the goal of making some money. When I first moved to New York, I pretty much gave money to everyone. A dollar here, a couple of nickels there. Then I started seeing the same people on the cars, giving the same speeches, and I adopted the NYC-stare (you know? it’s that dead-eye looking into nothing and ignoring everyone around you including the angry drunk homeless person asking for some spare change). You’ll likely find three kinds of solicitors:

  • The Story-Teller: this person will tell some story about how they’re homeless, they lost their job, their baby needs surgery, their baby died and they need to bury it (yes, I’ve actually heard this one – more than once), etc. There’s always some story about what happened and how they ended up on the subway interrupting your ride home. Likelihood of me giving this person money: about 50/50, depending on my mood and available small bills/ spare change.
  • The Drunk Beggar: This person is like my good friend “Man on E Train in Purple Sweats With A Bloody Eye Who Smells Like Human Feces”. Now, it’s not my place to judge a person’s lot in life. It’s also not my place to feel bad. And I’m really, really trying not to be mean here, but this guy smells horrific (seriously, if you know who I’m talking about, please leave me a comment). Like it’s so bad, I actually have a moment of panic where I wonder if I have enough time to hold my breath entirely or if I’ll have to make the decision to smell it through my nose or potentially taste it when I breathe through my mouth. Anyway, he and others in this category are always shit-faced on some form of drug or massive consumption of alcohol. They recite the same speech EVERY TIME you encounter them (Man on E Train goes with the repeated use of the word “please” — like literally, the drunker he is, the more he says it in a row. Sometimes, he forgets where he’s going with the story and gets off at the next stop to collect his thoughts). Likelihood of me giving this person money: Slim to none. They don’t even have it together enough to come up with a compelling story to sell me.
  •  The Entertainer: You wanna see me excited? Get me on the 6 train on a Friday or Saturday night when the guy who does magic and PULLS A PIGEON OUT OF HIS COAT starts to perform. Best. Thing. Ever. Nothing made my former ride from the UES to midtown every week as much fun as the show he’d put on. Similarly, you get the guys who break dance (awesome), the guys with the acordions who plays a few jams (annoying), and the occasional mariachi band (awe-inspiring) all looking to earn a few bucks by providing a bit of entertainment for rides between stops. Likelihood of me giving this person money: Pretty freaking high. Especially if it involves magic.

2) The Eye Contact Maker – oh this is perhaps the creepiest subway rider there is. This person will try to catch your eye the entire time you share a subway car. It’s a little less creepy when you’re crammed in during busy commuting time as you can avert your eyes and duck your head into the arm of the person pressed against you. It becomes increasingly more difficult when the car is empty enough that everyone gets a seat, they’re seated directly across from you, and you can feel their gaze burning a hole through you. They just, like, stare at you. I hate staring. I’m often tempted to flip them off (if it’s crowded) or make a nasty comment — but I fear getting shot in both scenarios. Instead, I have to hope that they’re not just making a mental image of me to whack off to later.

3) The Lost Person – this person has no idea where they’re going. They have no idea what train this is, where it’s going or if they should be on it. They’ll stare at the map on the wall (that’s likely right behind the seat you’re in so you have awkward-outta-towner crotch way too close to your personal space) and ask the least threating person on the subway how to get where they’re going. Another passenger will likely overhear this conversation and start to take part, will have their own opinion of the best way to get there and pretty soon 8 people are telling this tourist where to go. This person also tries to unfold a giant map in a crowded car. Sometimes I tell these people the wrong information on purpose.

4) The Shoes-Glued to the Floor Person – I want to punch this person in the face. They’re the person who refuses to move an inch and risk giving up their spot to let people on or off the car. I don’t think most professional strippers have a grip on a pole like these commuters do. They would rather have me literally breathing down their neck then move. And if God forbid you get a little forceful and push or scold this person, they’ll likely just give you that “what’s your problem?” look which simply infuriates me more. I secretly pray these people won’t watch the gap and will fall face first on the platform.

5) Most Athletic Commuter – this person is known for sprinting into the subway car and tackling others in their path to get the last seat on the car. They ignore all subway etiquette that dictates who gets the seat when it opens. If there’s a seat up for grabs, their butts will likely be the ones filling it. It’s usually a middle-aged balding man who wants to sit in peace and do his sodoku puzzles sitting down. He uses pencil. He carries a lunch box. And he doesn’t care that I’m a bag lady in 5 inch heels.

These are the 5 people I encounter on the subway — am I missing anyone?

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Posted on January 25, 2012, in new york city and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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