Wednesday, October 01, 2008

From the dept. of Quotidian Complaints

Why do people bring spilly items on the subway? Really, why? Coffees with loose tops are irritating but sort of understandable. Less so the businessman standing above me (I was lucky enough to have a seat) drinking some kind of neon-blue slushy, something I did not know one could buy in Manhattan, and making me wonder what I was thinking buying pale-gray corduroys. Also unnecessary: the woman with a small tupperware container of beans (?) in a very red sauce, spilling constantly on herself, leaving the person sitting next to her (guess who) fearing for some light-colored clothing item or another. Then there was the woman who I don't think even tried to affix the lid to her coffee, who spilled what remained of the cup right where a bunch of passengers were standing, then said, 'sorry,' as she hurried off the train. Like 'sorry' will buy five people new work clothes.

I see the following as possible solutions:

1) Fascism, or some sort of authoritarian regime that makes you not even think of getting on the train with a chilidog.

2) Adopting the all-black dress code of the 'real' New Yorker.

3) Sleeping in my office so as to avoid the trains.

4) Adopting some disgusting subway habit (nose/ear related?) that will keep passengers, beverage-bearing and otherwise, far enough away as to eliminate the problem.

5) Embracing stains as some perverse kind of street cred, like ripped jeans, and waiting for the Pollock-esque Marc Jacobs line that this will inevitably inspire.


Miss Self-Important said...

DC uses option #1, and it works really well. Once I took a half-full cup of S'bux on the train and got so many dirty looks that I have never contemplated bringing open food again. Unfortunately, homeless people remain since they tend to obey such social rules less assiduously.

Miss Self-Important said...

*remain a problem, that is

Will121 said...

Re #4

Instead of doing something nose/ear related, I’d suggest twitching and muttering to yourself. It should be nearly as off-putting to people who might have otherwise stood near you, but you won’t have to actually do anything gross / unsanitary.

Phoebe said...

Rita: What do you think allows this to happen in DC and not in NYC? I feel guilty when I bring coffee on the train, but am clearly alone in the sentiment.


I don't think I know how to twitch, but muttering sounds possible. I could always just do my readings for class--in French, and on obscure topics--aloud. That would do it.

Miss Self-Important said...

I'm sure someone's studied it, perhaps even dissertated on it. I can only think of two reasons:
1. The trains have carpeting. (Seriously.) And the seats are cushioned. Maybe people associate carpeting and cushions with home, or with some other incentive to behave hospitably towards fellow riders. I've also generally found Washingtonians to be very nice about giving up seats to the pregnant and elderly, or even anyone who looks older than the seated giver. Once, I accidentally took a seat on a crowded train that I think another woman had been eyeing, but I wasn't sure, and it was awkward to ask, but she was standing right next to me, and finally I just couldn't take the guilt anymore and got off to wait for the next train. Maybe everyone is like me?

2. DC broadcasts announcements in the stations about once every 10 minutes warning riders not to eat or they will be fined, and they recently ran an ad campaign with a huge poster of a rat that said, "Unlike some subway systems (which will remain nameless), you don’t see rats the size of house cats roaming the Metro." Clearly a jab at NYC, and Washingtonians love hating NYC, so maybe good behavior reinforcement? More here: Commenters also talk about no-food enforcement.