How do you ride the subway? What your stance says about you
Something about a crowded subway brings out the neurotic in New Yorkers. Riders act in weird, maddening — albeit somewhat predictable — ways when they’re enclosed in a small space with myriad strangers.
“It’s all about protecting that buffer zone around yourself. When you can’t get away physically, you do it in other ways,” said Pauline Wallin, a Pennsylvania-based psychologist.
amNewYork asked experts to analyze behaviors that generally annoy straphangers.
Senior instructor for the Body Language Institute in Alexandria, Va.
Founder of the Etiquette School of New York
A psychologist who specializes in impulse control
Subway etiquette 101
Make room for others to easily get on and off the train.
As much as possible, respect riders’ personal space.
Say “excuse me” if you bump into someone or if you’re going to hover over seated commuters to read a posted subway map.
Don’t eat messy foods.
Remove your backpack and position bags and packages so you don’t hog space.
No personal grooming. Don’t clip nails, floss or comb your hair.
(Source: Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick)
Six ways riders position themselves
The Door Hoverer
The rider who just won’t move into the car
Expert’s take: Typically, this is someone who wants to keep his or her options open, is claustrophobic or is a “business guy with complete disregard for others,” Brehove said. These riders spark widespread disdain among commuters. “It drives me crazy when people stand right next to the door,” said Lisa Wagner, 40, of Manhattan. “Usually there’s room in the middle of the car but they just won’t go there.”
The Corner Seeker
The rider who beelines it to corner seats
Expert’s take: Our experts agree that this is likely an anxious person seeking refuge from the masses. “It’s like crossing your arms in front of yourself. They want to be as far away as they can get,” Fitzpatrick said. “I am a big fan of personal space,” said Danielle Marie, 24, a Manhattan rider who prefers the corner. “I don’t want anyone to crowd me and I don’t want to crowd anyone else.”
The Wide Sitter
This commuter, typically a man, sits with one leg pointing “east” and the other “west.” They take up an unnecessary amount of space, often grazing the legs of passengers sitting next to them.
Expert’s take: Besides being rude, this is someone who wants to be challenging. “They are not completely plugged into society and society’s norms,” Brehove said. Riders agree. “It’s just a sign of rudeness and how inconsiderate a person is,” said Juanita Morens, 22, of Manhattan.
The rider who moves around the car several times during a trip
Expert’s take: Nimble and alert, this person is not about to become a victim. “It’s harder to corner a moving target,” Wallin said. Alternate take: This straphanger is indecisive. “It’s not like there’s a ‘best’ spot on the train. Pick one and relax,” said commuter Clay Lawrence, 42, of Williamsburg. “There’s not much room as it is, so people moving around just makes it worse.”
The Pole Hog
The straphanger who leans against the pole, making it tough for others to hold on
Expert’s take: This is one territorial, self-absorbed, high-and-mighty rider (sounds like a New Yorker, right?). “This is someone with a lot of attitude,” Wallin said. On the flip side, this could be someone seeking out protection. New Yorkers took the hard line. “Clueless and ignorant immediately come to mind,” said Regina Iulo, 50, a Brooklyn rider.
The Pole Avoider
The commuter who refuses to hold on to the pole, often crashing into others as the train lurches along
Expert’s take: Perhaps a germaphobe or someone who doesn’t want to be touched by strangers, Wallin said. Regardless, it’s bad form. Straphangers think these riders are just “silly.” “It’s unsafe, and it annoys other people because they fall on them,” said Mark Sahlins, 31, of Clinton Hill.
Tim Herrera and Katherine Lieb contributed to this story.