If you live in New York, this is probably like the most cliché topic of conversation: the subway is very crowded. During certain points during the day, it’s totally inadequate at transporting the number of people trying to get from point A to point B. Everything about riding mass transit here is a challenge. From the moment you even decide to go somewhere, it’s nothing but obstacles every step of the way.
Walking to the subway stop, you’ll be like a block, a block-and-a-half away, and you’ll hear the rumble of the train as it approaches the station. You think, shit, I can make this. As long as I run, as long as there’s an unobstructed path all the way to the platform, I’ll be OK, I’ve got this. But you’ve never got this, because there are always a million people in the way.
Because there are always like a million people taking the train, and all of them are thinking that same thing, I got this. But, you know, different people have different ideas of how long it’s going to take to get to the platform, different people have various opinions on what constitutes a brisk enough pace to make it there on time. That guy over there is walking really fast, but I’m walking even faster, and so is he going to make way for me to pass? Of course he’s not. Nobody’s making way for him to pass.
You make it to the turnstile right as the doors on the train open, there are like three people ahead of you trying to swipe, a bunch of people making their way out of the station via the same turnstiles. You have a few standoffs, the people exiting clearly have the advantage. All they have to do is push, whereas you have to swipe your card.
It says, “Please swipe again,” so you swipe, “Please swipe again at this turnstile.” It’s not hitting, even though you know it’s all about timing, you can’t go too fast, or too slow, you haven’t gotten stuck like this in a while. The guy behind you lets you know how frustrated he’s getting with an audible groan, a whispered, “Ugh … come on …” and you want to turn around and give that guy a look, a stink-eye, something, but you’re trying, one more swipe and, “Insufficient fare.”
The doors to the train close, not that you would have made it anyway, not with the insufficient fare. And there’s another line for the Metrocard machine. You’re waiting, you’re tapping your feet anxiously, checking behind you every ten seconds or so, making sure that you’re not going to miss another train. The lady in front, come on, the instructions are so clear, you want to just take her credit card out of her hand and do it for her, there you go lady, tap, tap, zip code, tap, thanks.
And then when you finally find a spot on the platform, you’re waiting, everyone’s waiting, “The next downtown N train will arrive in. Eight. Minutes.” People keep spilling into the station, crowding the platform. By the time the downtown N finally does pull up to the station, you’re already thinking, no way, no way is this overpacked train going to be able to hold everyone.
The people get off, everyone on the platform is jockeying for position, ready to grab one of the precious square feet or so of space. You make it inside, you slide to the middle of the car. It’s so tight that your body is pressed up against the bodies of three other people. Despite the lack of personal space whatsoever, the guy next to you is determined not to let the less than comfortable conditions deter him from reading his book. Even if it means him angling his elbow outward into your space, holding his paperback like an inch away from your face. Is he even comfortable craning his neck like that? What, does he have a book report due six stops from now? Doesn’t he notice that every time the train bumps or jostles that the spine of the book is tapping you on the side of the head? Tap, tap, tap.
And then when you’re half a stop away from your destination, this lady sitting in front of you, she abruptly stands up, or tries to stand up anyway, there’s no room for another standing body, so she starts yelling out, “Excuse me. Excuse me!” trying to get up, pushing to the crowd, pushing a little harder, “Excuse me! I need to get off! This is my stop!”
And you want to be like, you know what lady? This is my stop too. You just had a nice comfortable sitting down train ride, right? You got to catch up on some cell phone games, I saw you eating a sandwich, and don’t think every single person around you wasn’t grossed out when you started clipping your nails. And now you want us all to somehow contort our bodies so that you can be first one off the train?
“Excuse me!” she somehow made her way to the door, she always does, the train pulls up to the next station, even more crowded than the one before. The doors slide open and the people at this stop aren’t as patient, they start piling in, the sitting down lady is shoving back, “Ex! Cuse! Me!” some other guy behind starts yelling, “Let the people off! Come on! Let the people off!” It’s a shoving match, everybody pushing each way, the conductor gets on the loudspeaker trying to instill some order, “Let the passengers off the train first! I’m serious! Don’t make me come out there!”
There’s got to be a better way, man, they’ve got to figure something else out. Is this is a problem in other cities? I mean, I’ve seen horrifying videos of rush hour commuter traffic in China, and so yeah, it’s definitely worse over there. But what about Toronto? Or Boston? Is it that much of a nightmare getting anywhere in DC? Are people maybe a little better behaved? Can some of you come over here and help us out, maybe throw a few suggestions our way? Because this sucks over here, man, riding the subway here is the absolute worst.