How to Survive a Trip on the NYC Subway

A few of my loyal readers (thanks to the 6 of you) may remember a tale I told not long ago that took place in a popular hoagie store.

It seems like I can’t get away from intriguing subway incidents–this time, though, the new location is NYC and occurs several feet underground. Let me share with you my best advice to getting from point A to point Z on this particular mode of public transportation.

You wouldn’t think that riding an underground train would be so arduous: you swipe a card, board a train, get off of the train.

Au contraire, gentle reader.

Descend the 200 stairs to the entry level of the sweltering hot station.

Before you board, you have to get the actual ticket to get you through the turnstile. This either requires human interaction, should there be a booth in your particular stop with an actual human person in it, or some finagling with a machine that gives far too many options. Thankfully, being a child of this modern generation, the machine isn’t too difficult to navigate–opt for that. Do it quickly and make sure no one is hovering close enough to steal your purse/ticket/credit card while doing the transaction (this is key as predators can smell a rookie from a mile away).

Next, proceed through the turnstile and get it right the first time. Most are normal turnstiles like you’d encounter in a theme park–those are the easy ones. But you may be faced with a monstrosity like this:

Medieval torture device or entrance to the subway?

and then you have to make sure you’re as close to the entrance as possible or someone trying to EXIT while you ENTER will take your swipe. You can’t simply re-swipe your card, though. You have to wait something like 15 minutes or proceed to the next nearest station. Been there, done that.

Next, you have to make sure you arrive at the platform going in the correct direction (either uptown or downtown) and I swear to you that, in a number of circumstances, finding Platform 9 3/4 would be easier.

There are many a colorful character on the subterranean level of NYC and I advise you not to approach them at all or make any sudden movements. Avoid eye contact. Don’t even smile (because a true New Yorker won’t return it, anyway). If you do happen to break one of these rules, you may end up seeing what appears to be an older homeless man dressed like a priest click his heels and then walk behind you and check out your hiney.

Ew. Gross. Yep, it happened. 

Now, you must realize that waiting for your train is a tedious game that I haven’t enjoyed playing in the least. Most of the stations don’t have any signs to indicate when the next train will be arriving. Several people think it’s a good idea to LEAN INTO THE ACTUAL PIT of the station to see if there is a moving train barreling down the corridor. Guess what–people die this way every single year. Last year, well over 100 people were struck and at least 53 people DIED. Sure, some were suicide attempts, some were pushed by lunatics (see: SPOILER ALERT–House of Cards), but most were people accidentally leaning over the edge and falling in.

What a way to go. Your own stupidity sentenced you to death. Curiosity killed the cat–and the subway commuter.

Your train finally arrives, you’ve survived it pulling into the station, and you rapidly climb through the sliding doors hoping that they don’t close in the 10 seconds they usually remain open. If a seat isn’t taken, you plop down and try to contract all of your limbs into your torso so you’re not touching the (inevitably) obese person next to you that happens to be spilling into your seat–which is already pretty tiny. This is not because you don’t want to touch them because they repulse you (they’re perfectly nice humans, I’m sure); rather, because you think making contact with anyone else without their express permission is rude–even in tight quarters.

If there are no seats, you grab on to the nearest pole (infested with the germs of over 8 million people) and try not to fall over as the train jerks in every conceivable direction.

NOTE: the subway is not for people that like to daydream or easily zone out (ie it’s not for me). Because you may find yourself missing your stop at 59th Street on what you think is a local train and then end up at the next stop: 125 Street–66 blocks away from your missed stop because it magically has become an express train.

But you’re not a scatter brain so you get off at the right stop and head through those quickly closing doors and realize that there are several exits. Some lead you to other trains that you can transfer to (as there are multiple lines connecting all over the width and breadth of NYC). Others will lead to the street level–but which one is situated on the corner  you need it to be? Are you going NW, SE, or maybe you’re looking for a particular street on which to exit.

Now comes the ascent up 50 million stairs that’ll have your calves screaming for mercy after your first trip.

Why not take the elevator?

Because if a station has an elevator, you’ll probably have to wait 10 minutes for it (as they are all impossibly slow) or end up inside stranded, and alone, with a panhandler who has you trapped for the duration of the trip north.

I hope you brought change.

Walk up the steps, try not to hyperventilate at the excessive amounts of exercise, and breathe in the sweet smell of garbage and dog pee–you’ve reached your NYC destination.


7 thoughts on “How to Survive a Trip on the NYC Subway

  1. As somebody who has lived in New York the last 9 months i will admit that this is pretty much completely true in the beginning. It’ll get much better when you get used to it though! Also, just remember to imagine how fierce your calf muscles are going to be by the end of this stint.

  2. Pingback: NYC is Making Me Fat. | Short and Feisty

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