City Life: Subway Logjams Suck Ass
NEW YORK, N.Y. – Stephen Gianakis is sweating. Wearing a double-breasted wool suit will make you do that when you’re forced to stand for several stops on a crowded rush-hour subway train. Mr. Gianakis, a bond trader, is making the trek this morning from his Upper West Side apartment to his job in the Financial District. His immediate concern, however, is neither perspiration nor punctuality.
“This ride sucks in and of itself,” said Mr. Gianakis, 34, “but it’s these dumb motherfuckers who try to get on the train before everyone else gets off that make this shit fucking miserable.”
It would seem logical for passengers waiting to board subway trains to stand aside and allow debarking passengers to exit – there are regular announcements to this effect – but the practice doesn’t seem to have caught on among the majority of New York straphangers.
If you’ve ever tried to leave a subway car and found yourself in the midst of a standoff with a dull-eyed fellow commuter, you’re in good company. According to a comprehensive analysis performed by the New York Mass Transit Logistics Association (NYMTLA), roughly 30% of Manhattan commuters will attempt to board trains with no regard for societal convention, common courtesy or common sense.
“We’ve run the numbers on this over a five year period,” says Jason Moffatt, a NYMTLA research analyst, “and what we’ve found is that people in New York City, especially in Midtown Manhattan, tend to disregard what decent people consider to be rules. I’m speaking subjectively here, but what makes sense to people with at least average intelligence isn’t always the way things work in practice.”
Mr. Gianakis agrees. “I ride this motherfucking train every fucking day, and it just blatantly sucks. From the hot stations that ruin my fucking clothes ten minutes after I get out of the fucking shower to these fucking people I have to ride with, by the time I get where I’m going, I want to take a chainsaw to all these fucking people standing in front of the door. Seriously. One day I totally fucking will.”
Following his organization’s extensive five-year research project, Mr. Moffatt said NYMTLA’s statisticians have noted a number of common threads among commuters who fail to step aside. “We’ve charted just about everything about them,” she said, “and it seems as though the practice is most common among Eastern European and Asian tourists, along with high school students. It’s also quite prevalent among people without work-related paraphernalia like briefcases, which is indicative of a state of unemployment. This piqued our curiosity as to why they’re in such a hurry to get on the train.”
FOOT IN THE DOOR
Unbeknownst to Joseph Merritt, he’s been under NYMTLA observation for two years. Mr. Merritt, 43, is a self-employed “search engine optimization specialist” from Yonkers who commutes daily from Grand Central Terminal to Water Street in the Financial District. He also consistently attempts to run into subway trains as soon as the doors open, infuriating at least those fellow passengers with intelligence levels high enough to notice how irritating he is.
“We’ve run surveillance on him long enough to be able to predict what he’s going to do on the platform,” said Mr. Moffatt. “He was, essentially, the spark that set off the entire study, because he abjectly refused to have any regard for the personal space of his fellow commuters. That, of course, extends to his habit of inexplicably rushing onto the train for no apparent reason.”
Mr. Moffatt said Mr. Merritt’s decorum hasn’t improved one iota over two years. “The guy’s a fucking asshole, honestly. There was one night we followed him, and he shoves his way onto the train even though there was plenty of space, and you know what he does? The fucking guy lit up a cigarette. On a fucking subway train. I looked at my colleague, and I was like, ‘I went to college to fucking follow this guy around?’ I mean, what the fuck?”
At the end of his workday, Mr. Merritt’s subway behavior seemed to have deteriorated further. Sporting a pair of white “earbud” headphones connected to an iPod, his music was audible – and abrasive – from the opposite end of his subway car.
When he first boarded the train, Mr. Merritt seemed content to stand holding the pole in the section of floor between the two middle sets of doors. After a few stops, however, he continually bent down for reasons Mr. Moffatt – observing the situation from approximately ten feet away – could not ascertain. In the process, he repeatedly brushed his hair across the hand of Mr. Gianakis, the other man holding the pole.
“If he did it again, I was going to punch him in the face,” said Mr. Giannakis. “Are you fucking kidding me? Stand still, you stupid fucking drug addicted fuck. What the fuck do they all have to fucking touch me for? People are fucking disgusting. And hand sanitizer? You really think that shit’s going to work? I don’t even like eating lunch anymore. Fuck this.”
For commuters like Mr. Merritt, according to Mr. Giannakis, commuting on the subway is a pleasure. “Oh, he doesn’t fucking care,” he said. “He’s too stupid to fucking care. He’s got an easy life, because he can walk around being so fucking stupid that he’s got a fucking bulls-eye on his fucking head, but if I give him what he deserves and punch his fucking face in, I’m the one who goes to jail. Fuck that guy, man. Fuck all these fucking people. Must be a really great life being a fucking moron.”
Dr. Barbara Feldspar, a Brooklyn psychologist and expert on decorum regression, says Mr. Merritt’s behavior is strictly biological in nature.
“We’d like to think this sort of thing has something to do with the quality of one’s parenting, but I’ve rarely found that to be the case,” she said. “The extensive testing that’s been done on these people has simply shown them to be of less than average intelligence. Very far down the scale in some cases. That’s why I’ve begun carrying a Taser on my way to work. I’ve theorized that all I have to do is shock one of these people, and the rest will move out of the way. Clinical studies have shown that the stupid respond rapidly to force.”
The New York City subway system, said Dr. Feldspar, tends to amplify one’s mental deficiencies in ways that may not be quite as apparent aboveground. “On the subway, people are in such close quarters that they’re forced to use common sense. The problem, however, is that very few people have any. When you take a person who’s barely functional in polite society and place him in a situation where he actually has to address the needs of others and show care and caution, he’s not going to be very successful. We see this every day, and it’s generally why people stab one another.”
This, said Mr. Giannakis, is why his health is beginning to decline. “It’s total, total bullshit. The world is a completely fucking unfair place when I have to get up in the morning and I can’t just go to work and be a productive member of society without some fucked up piece of shit touching me with his hair or not letting me off the fucking subway. It sucks. New York sucks. I hate this fucking place. Seriously, fuck all of you.”
“As someone who’s monitored this closely for years,” added Mr. Moffatt, “I really find these studies amazing, because this behavior is so foreign to anyone who knows how to tie his own shoes. As a guy who rides the subway every day, though, I’ve come to consider everyone else on the train my fucking enemy.”