Last week I wrote a column about the worst behaviors on public transportation, and I'll be the first to admit it was not a complete list. But aside from leaving myself room for a possible sequel, I also thought it would be fun for the readers to vent their pet peeves in the comments, and many did. Some of the suggestions, however, about things I "forgot" to include were a bit surprising. I didn't "forget" to include people who take a dump right on a subway platform or publicly vomit. I think we can all agree that's disgusting. I'm also pretty sure that the vagrant crapping himself knows he's not supposed to do that. I'm looking more for the things that lots of people do either because they're clueless or indifferent to just how unacceptable their behavior is.
So yeah, in 1993 psychopath Colin Ferguson killed 6 and wounded 19 on the Long Island Rail Road by opening fire with a semi-automatic weapon. He's not on the list. Neither is Mussolini even though I'm pretty sure he had something to do with trains. And yes we all hate it when train conductors use needle-nose pliers to remove pieces of our small intestines (especially during rush hour) but it's just not the kind of stuff I'm going for here. So behold a gallery of less obvious, but still infuriating, public transportation transgressors.
Many of you suggested people who wear their backpacks on the bus and subway, and I'd have to agree. Backpacks take up the space of two people and during rush hour every inch of the subway car is valuable real estate. And yet, I've seen tons of seemingly normal passengers completely oblivious to the carnage they're causing to others by their subtle movements from right to left. And even if they're standing still, that still doesn't solve the problem. Wearing your backpack on a subway is like going to a Nickelback concert: it doesn't matter how you behave, once you've made that decision, you're already an ass.
Etiquette dictates that you take it off and hold it down by your feet where there's more room and where it's less likely to nudge. And if not, then I'm sorry to inform you that New York City Ordinance 4.031 now allows passengers assaulted by backpacks to place no fewer than three live scorpions in the offender's backpack while said backpacker obliviously plays with his iPhone or strokes his hipster moustache.
And trust me, you'll never get the smell of 80s has-beens out of your backpack.
I confess. I've done this. I've been late to work and thrown a clipper in my pocket as I headed out for the train and then discreetly trimmed my nails. I mean, what's so gross about nails? You wouldn't freak out if I scratched your back. Well, I mean you might if you didn't ask me to and I just showed up behind you, suddenly running my masculine blogger's hands up and down your shoulder blades until I reached the small of your back. Sorry, I lost myself for a second, but it's only because you're so damn hot, you itchy little vixen.
The point is, nails only seem to be gross when they're separated from the rest of the body. To my mind, if you clip them unceremoniously in your lap and make a small pile that you take with you, it's a victimless crime. But if you overtly go SNAP, SNAP, SNAP, throwing caution and nails to the wind, well then I can't help you. That's just kinda gross. Grosser still? Toenails. I kid you not. Just last week some Jamaican lady started hacking away in the next row (while talking on her cellphone no less). Know what I did? Got vaguely nauseated and didn't think about it again until I dredged up these nightmares for you. Thanks a lot, jackass.
There. Now we're even.
Much like toenail cutting, I don't have a hard and fast line about eating on a train. You have to understand some rides are over an hour long. Some people are getting off of work and may have skipped lunch. Also, most metropolitan train stations I've seen offer a lot of food and no seating. It's not insane to bring a slice of pizza, sandwich, or Big Mac on a train, but use your discretion people. All food is not created equal, especially when you're going to be ingesting it in an enclosed space for a certain period of time.
Judges? No, I'm sorry. This is not appropriate train food. We were looking for "an apple." Yes, "an apple."
So an egg salad sandwich? No. Lamb Vindaloo? No. Curried Onion Fart Blasts? No. It's not rocket science. Nothing that can be smelled by anyone more than a row away. And if you're eating on public transportation we're assuming it's because you're ravenous so suck it down and move on. No luxurious consumption. Remember, the longer you leave it exposed to subway air, the higher the odds that you'll be sprinkling it with rat feces molecules or flying Jamaican toenails.
In big cities it's usually yellow cabs with one fare per customer. But in smaller cities and towns, it's not unusual for taxis to take several people in one cab, charging 3 separate fares. And unless you're riding with Lord of the Flies travel, order of drop off is usually decided by either the order you got in the cab or the quickest overall route for the driver. It is not decided upon your belief that you are inherently better than every other passenger in the car. It is not decided by the quality of your suit or your how nice a car you have (when you're not requiring a taxi)
I live walking distance from my station, but last week when I got off the train, I was caught in a downpour with no umbrella. I took a cab. Another gentlemen entered just as the driver was about to take off for my destination which is literally two blocks off the road that leads to the station. Immediately, the gentleman began insisting he go first:
"I'm five minutes away," he said. "Right off SwaimRapesDogs Blvd."
(That's not the actual name of the street, but I am actively lobbying my local representative for a change.)
"You're gonna hit my house first," I said. "You reach my street, CodyHasSTDs Lane, before you even get to SwaimRapesDogs Blvd."
(It should be noted that I do actually live on CodyHasSTDs Lane).
"Yeah I understand that, but that's if you make a right out of here. If you make a left, I'm only five minutes away."
So let's recap here:
1. I was in the cab first;
2. My destination was far closer to the station than his; and
3. I'm lobbying my congressmen to change one of the streets in my town to SwaimRapesDogs Blvd.
The third point is unnecessary I'll admit, but given the first two, I was pretty shocked that I was involved in an argument. In response, I said nothing and just watched the driver take me home first. "I'll rise above this," I said to myself, and then sat down and wrote mean things about the bad man who was a big jerkface. Because I'm very mature.
Some day ... (sigh)
In most cities, and certainly New York, it's against the law to beg and panhandle on the subway. There are signs directing passengers to give to established charities and not to these individuals. Also, there is definitely a certain percentage of panhandlers who are not in need of assistance. Who beg for money as a source of income, playing on the heartstrings of passengers trapped in close proximity. Nevertheless, I know there has to be a certain percentage of people actually starving. I'm not talking about them. I'm only addressing the con artists. How do you separate the two? Because so many are soooo bad at it, and they're the ones I find most offensive. If you're going to pretend that begging and conning is a job, then at least be good at it.
Yeah, I'm talking to you, kid with a box of M&Ms. We all know you're not actually trying to raise money for your basketball team's tournament. And older dude, we don't care that you don't take drugs. You're not supposed to be a drug addict. You don't get hand-outs simply for not spending it on meth.
But perhaps the worst offender was a woman I saw a few years ago who actually tucked her shirt into her sweatpants and then begged for money for herself and for her unborn child. Seriously? You want money for that level of ingenuity? If you're trying to defraud me at lease invest in a pillow because presently you're carrying the only baby who could be aborted with the old "shirt's on fire, now it's out" trick.
Hey, guess what. Subways are loud. They're underground. They have brakes. And sometimes those brakes screech and echo. Know what you do when that happens? Nothing. It's screeching subway brakes the way God intended. Do you know what you look like when you stick your fingers in your ears and make some sour lemon face about the god-awful racket you have to endure? This.
You look like this:
Well, not really, but you don't look good.
Many of you suggested cell phone users and drunks. Both good suggestions and I'd like to open that up to a larger category: people who have absolutely no conception or no concern for just how loud they're being. Rule of thumb: if you're more then five feet from me, I shouldn't be able to hear you. I don't care about the party or the boss or your kids or whatever Sheila said to Deborah about that thing Nancy told her. Or how about the times the car is completely silent. No one is talking. All you can hear is the soothing racketa racketa of the tracks and then one person starts talking. Loudly.
Side note. Some of the worst offenders? German tourists. Holy hell. First off, quick question Germans: why is that no matter what season you visit, you wear expensive shorts, large construction boots with wool socks, and aviator glasses. Is this standard issue or is there only one lone camping/Land's End type store in Germany? But fashion aside, who knew Aryans were so loud? I always thought Hitler was screaming in those old news clips because he was trying to inspire nationalistic fury. Maybe he was just trying to be heard on downtown 9?
"DO I NEED TO TRANSFER AT UNION SQUARE?!
Upon reflection, perhaps this is list-worthy after all.
How did these hyper-specific tropes spread so quickly?
Most rich kids just want to be pop stars.
The Hollywood rumor mill has been playing games with celebrity deaths for at least a century.
It's easy to work the system and win these awards even if you don't deserve them.