New York City, NY

10 Unwritten Rules for Riding Subways that Most New Yorkers Know

Genius Turner
Riding subways in the Big Apple comes packaged with tons of unspoken rules.(WNYC New York Public Radio/Flickr)

New York City — Years ago when I first moved to NYC, like most newbies I was deaf to hearing the unspoken subway rules.

"Hey," my pal Jamie said while nudging me, "you're not in Texas anymore." She shook her head. "So here go the two rules. Rule number one: in New York, we don't stare at strangers on the subway. So mind your business."

"And what's the second rule?" I asked.

"The second rule is — never forget rule number one!"

Years later, I now consider myself a graduate of unspoken subway rules. And so, with that being said: here are ten unwritten rules for riding subways that most New Yorkers know

1. Let other people off before you get on.

Storming through those sliding train doors, only to accidentally bump some guy with Mike Tyson's physique — who was merely trying to peacefully get off at his stop — qualifies as "high risk, low reward" behavior.

2. If the takeout stinks, please don't take it out.

Sure, those french fries and Big Mac smells yummy for your tummy. But at 7 am — the rest of us are merely trying not to barf . . . and maybe enjoy our coffee in peace

3. It's best not to treat the subway aisle like a foot bath & spa.

I once sat across from some guy who decided to rest his bare feet atop his sneakers. While most of us covered our noses with shirts, I couldn't help but recall a Robin Harris joke. "This guy's feet stink soooo bad that his ankles outta have the right to bear firearms."
When riding the subway, best to keep the feet in the shoes.(Ben Rose/Flickr)

4. Offer your seat to anyone who's pregnant or elderly or disabled.

You know the saying: less is more, unless we're talking about kindness, sleep or toilet paper.

5. If you don't have headphones, keep the music in your head.

Ah, don't you just love riding home after a long day, only to be greeted by the guy who strolls in with the boombox, pressed to his ear? To add insult to injured ears, the guy's decked out in the red and black "Beat It" jacket — with all 7 zippers on front — and he's singing Weird Al's "Eat It."

6. Nobody's purse or backpack deserves a special seat on a crowded subway car.

Even if you're not looking for trouble — trouble may look for you if your bag gobbles up limited seating.

7. Watch that lovely hair.

If your hair is long, cool. A fresh blowout from the Drybar is awesomesauce! But just remember to peek behind you before tossing that lovely mane around. After all, few things are more deflating than a stranger's "hair-belt" striking you.

8. Oh, be careful with the wet umbrella.

Few things are as fun as being seated next to someone wringing out an umbrella . . . on your formerly dry shoes.

9. Leaning your entire body against the pole is a "no, no."

Nothing like standing in the middle of the aisle . . . the subway car jerks . . . you reach for the pole and then boom! — your hand accidentally grazes some guy's hairy chest.

10. The golden rule for being a smart subway rider.

Common sense will take you further than any other trait.

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My writing is popular in academia (biology, psychology, etc.) and on websites such as Quora (millions of views) and Medium. Also, I'm signed to the same literary agency as Eckhart Tolle. In short, I'm an ordinary guy serving an extraordinary God.

New York City, NY

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