NYC Subway Rant Number One

There’s a lot to hate about the New York City subway system. I’m focusing my hatred on two specific things today, so sit back and enjoy the rant!

There’s one thing I hate right now more than anything else about the subways. It’s not that the stations are coated with dried urine, or that people don’t stick to the right side of the stairs. It’s not even the nasty-ass behavior of almost every single token booth clerk in the entire system. It is the fact that, on every car, on every line, no matter the time, day or night, there are riders blocking the doors.

See, the kind of people I hate most in general are those who act like they don’t give a shit about the rights of others. And it is these entitled types who consistently block the doors these days. Each set of double doors in a car will have two people blocking it, standing with their backs pressed against the Do Not Lean On Door signs. When the trains stop and the doors open, they turn sideways in their spots, leaving a space between them wide enough for only a single person to pass through. So instead of people being able to enter and exit the cars two at a time, they must enter and exit one by one, almost feeling like they should say “excuse me” as they do it. This slows down the entire subway system and makes everyone later than they already are. There are just too many folks who don’t think about the effect their behavior has on the people around them. It makes me angry, and I think it’s the core of what’s wrong with society in general, which is a rant for another day.

The thing I hate second-to-most right now about riding the trains is the preponderance of handheld devices, from iPads to PSPs. Not only are they keeping everyone complacent as their rights magically disappear, but they are keeping them stupid enough to display their most expensive possessions on the subway even as reported thefts of these devices is on the rise. Almost everyone on every train I ride is playing with some gadget or other, and half of them are doing it without headphones.

The whole Quality of Life thing has really fucked up this city, taken away the grit and replaced it with the shiny glass and plastic crap that so impresses the rich folks and the tourists. There are too many Haves who don’t like it when the Have-Nots express themselves, so on the trains, glossy advertising posters have replaced graffiti, and handheld devices have replaced boom boxes. It’s just that handheld devices without headphones are the same damn thing as boom boxes, but the Haves don’t tend to carry boom boxes, and too many of them are afraid of those who do. Oh the hypocrisy!

Since they piss me off, I’ve been paying close attention to the folks blocking the doors. And I’ve noticed that almost every single one of them is playing a video game. If they’re leaning their backs against the door, they can use both hands for their games. People play with their devices so they don’t spend their travel time looking at each other or thinking about their lives—playing Angry Birds feels so much better than the myriad stressors of reality.

In the subway system, power has always been defined by your ability to come out on top of a situation, by using your fists or your words. Back in my day, it was the people who could beat the shit out of you who blocked the doors and blasted their music. Money has no power underground—it’s only something to be taken away from you. It’s all about the survival of the fittest, and engaging in these activities was a sign that you were tough, but this just isn’t the case anymore. Folks block the door and don’t use headphones ‘cause they’re selfish. And because the rest of us are conditioned not to confront door blockers and music blasters because they were tough guys, we do not confront this new breed.

But I feel a change coming. I see a subway system where polite people will rise up and ask others to stop blocking the doors, to please use their headphones. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t advocate confronting those with a crazy look in their eyes, just the assholes that aren’t paying to attention as the world throbs around them.

Because the fact is, we’re all equals down there, all subject to random bag checks and the potential of being exploded by a homemade bomb. Those of us who are able might as well treat each other with respect. Rant over.