If you have never ridden the New York City subway system, it is dirty, crowded, and just another unpleasant burden of the workers' day. There is a ritual of the subway. Once there, you lose your humanity. You are transformed into a savage, brutal and selfish automaton. Savage in that you push and shove other riders out of your way to get into the car. Brutal in that you never excuse yourself for any atrocities that you commit to get in the car. Selfish in that you never give up your seat to any one no matter how cripple and old and pregnant they are. Automaton in that you never look at any one else as a human being.
Now there are certain strategies that you can employ to be a successful subway rider. You can stand by the door and obstruct the way just to be selfish and ornery. That strategy is designed to increase your standing with your fellow passengers by impressing them with how vicious you can be pushing back at people trying to push into the car. Whenever I see this strategy employed, I immediately piggy back on it. I move to the center of the car. There will be no one there as the "doorman" is keeping the other passengers bottle-necked at the door. Of course this only works if you are already on the car.
If you happen to encounter a "doorman" and you are outside the car, you could use the "linebacker" technique. This is the one that I favor and use. It is also known to its victims as the "flying elbows" technique. I bring my elbows up so that they look like wings in front of me then I charge the door. A few others have used the "refrigerator" technique. Here you have to be at least three hundred pounds. It is so simple, you just stand by the door and lean in. Watch out for this technique if you are in the center of the car for that is where the doorman usually lands when "leaned" upon.
Women have their techniques too. My favorite is the "bag Lady". You get yourself a bag so big that it weighs three hundred pounds then apply the refrigerator technique. A select group of women are lucky to have the natural requirements for the "red sea" technique. Here you need to have very large bust. Somehow that bust out front seems to part the crowd at the door like Moses at the Red Sea.
Once in the subway car, you try to get a seat or at least a good standing spot. The basic strategy is not to appeal to your fellow passengers' kindness (see remarks on cripples) but to force them to move. The easiest technique is to be a smelly, crazy, homeless person. You will sometimes clear out the whole car with this technique. If you are going home from work on the subway, it is obvious that you are crazy but not a smelly homeless person. You will have to rely on some method like the "fat lady" technique.
In the "fat lady" technique, you find the smallest space you can and sit there. As the space is really too small for you, you are really sitting on your fellow passenger's lap. Eventually, that passenger will get the hint and move. You now have your seat!
There are other techniques like smoking out a quarry from a seat with a foul smelling cigar, or the loud boombox which deafens both your victim and yourself. Note: some techniques are regional in nature, for example, the foul smelling cigar will not work in certain Brooklyn neighborhoods where a foul smelling cigar is a naturally occurring phenomenon nor will the boombox approach work in upper Manhattan where boomcars (or is it carboxes) are known to exist.
Once you have staked out your spot or have a seat, never look your fellow passengers in the eye. There is no strategy per say except to look everywhere else. This is easy if you are standing. You can look at the hemorrhoids or AIDS advertising for the forty-five minutes of your trip. If you are male, you can be fortunate to get a young lady with a low cut blouse sitting below you. In which case, it is permissible to look down her blouse for forty-five minutes. But all too often, all you get is a bird's view of someone's dandruff.
If you are sitting, you have only one option, you must close your eyes and pretend to sleep. If you do not close your eyes, you will only get an eye-level view of the crotch of the person standing in front of you. If you are female, you can be fortunate to get a young man with his fly open. In which case, it is permissible to look at his fly for forty-five minutes.
There are hidden advantages to the sleeping technique. You can pretend that you are asleep and hence did not realize that there was a cripple, old and pregnant person standing in front of you. You can pretend that you are really in the caribbean on a lovely beach with a handsome/beautiful, sexy, well endowed man/woman. Or you can do as I do, have wonderful fantasies about your fellow passengers being loved/tortured. But that is for another story.
Copyright © Lloyd Burkett March 10, 1993
Copyright © by Joseph D. Korman