Sunday, October 31, 2010

NYC Subway Survival Guide (Part 4)

One of the oldest and most extensive underground mass rapid transportation systems in the world, the New York City subway can be a daunting task to navigate even for the most seasoned of straphangers. This is where I come in. I'm a New Yorker born and bred, having lived here for all 34 years of my life. Mine has been a continuous love/hate relationship with the labyrinthine rail system ever since I started riding it at the age of 9, and I'm here to present my tips and observations to you.

The Subway Survival Guide is meant to keep you alive and well to live another day in New York City. Ignore its warnings at your own peril.

But before we get started on the next installment of this ongoing series, please check out these previous entries at your own leisure:

Part 1: Trust No One!
Part 2: Make Yourself Less of a Target.
Part 3: Getting Around.

And now, let us continue:

Part 4 - Racial Profiling.

The New York City subway is a crowded mess, let's not pretend it's not. And the quest for the rare, ever-elusive empty seat during rush hour can seem like an impossible task. But if you take note of who's already sitting down around you, it's possible that a seat can be yours in just under 15 mins, tops. Now normally racial profiling is a bad, bad thing. As someone who's been on the receiving end of it, trust me: it's so not cool. And yet, I'm about to get downright un-PC with what I'm going to suggest next. See, when it comes down to survival in the urban jungle, sometimes you need to be a little un-PC. It's the law of the land.

The German tourist family is the obvious first choice when you're standing in a crowded express commute car heading home after work. They're not hard to spot: just search for a group of, like, 9 extended family members, blond and blue-eyed and all sitting in a neat row staring intently up at the subway line map. Their pale moon faces and flush red cheeks (a complexion, I imagine, you can only get from milking cows in the crisp Bavarian countryside) are a dead giveaway. If you're on a train traveling uptown, this large group WITHOUT FAIL will be getting off at Times Square. You can bet money on this.

The next sure bet is . . . Asian people. If you know your train is traveling anywhere that has a stop named "Canal Street" in Manhattan -- and believe me, your train will be -- then this is where they'll be getting off. It doesn't matter if they're Chinese, Korean, Malaysian, Japanese . . . Chinatown is where they'll be going! Especially if the Asian man or woman is elderly and/or carrying pink plastic bags filled with fresh garden vegetables or fish. Stand close to these folks and wait for the Canal Street station to slide into view. If you time it just right, you can slip into the seat abandoned by the old Asian man before anyone else standing is even aware of what just happened. If you're traveling uptown, however, and you have already passed Canal St., then look for the Asian straphanger to get off at Times Square, so as to catch the 7 line out to Flushing. With. Out. Fail.

White people are the next popular group to give up seats with predictable timing. If you're on the Lexington Avenue line traveling uptown, for instance -- find the Caucasian executive dressed in a suit and/or dress shirt with tie. If they have a briefcase, SCORE! I don't know why, but these folks ALWAYS get off at 42nd Street Grand Central. My guess is to catch the Metro North lines out to the suburbs. Any remaining white people on your train will either get off at the next stop, or the one after that. So stick by them if no businessmen are available in your immediate vicinity.

Relax, nobody of the Caucasian persuasion travels above 86th street on the Lex. Express. This is because the next stop after 86th is *gasp* HARLEM! Oh god, NO!!! All the "darkies" live there, and heaven forbid you should ever end up here if you're white. Why, you might get mugged. Or raped! Or mugged, then raped! So if you stood by whitey and still don't have a seat after 86th street, tap him or her on the shoulder and warn them. It's the civic thing to do.

Now, have you exhausted all these options and still don't have a seat? Sorry dude, you're S-O-L. If all you can see around you is a sea of minorities, then tough it up and resign yourself to a very long standing ride uptown. Blacks and Latinos never get off at the next stop. EVAR! It's like they all live at the very last stop. Or so it always seems to me.

Above all else, avoid standing near the morbidly obese black female (MOBF) who may also be in the same boat as you, hunting for a seat. Even if a seat becomes available nearest you and is only wide enough to fit a normal-sized human being, you'll not be the one getting it. The MOBF is a fierce seat predator. Whether she can fit into it or not, she will claw and bite her way through you for that perch -- as her sense of entitlement is STRONG. Any poor fool sitting in proximity as the MOBF defiantly squeezes her titanically round rear into the square peg of a seat must forfeit the use of his or her arm and/or kneecap for the remainder of the ride. It belongs to her now, and her ass is always HUNGRY!

Now, to be sure, there ARE exceptions to these rules, Nothing is absolute in the real world. But 9 times out of 10, if you follow the advice above, you WILL get a seat. The best is when you find a long stretch of bench with a mixture of all three types -- tourists, Asians, and white people. In such a scenario, and if you stick very close to your target so that no one else can cut in front of you when they eventually get up, you will have a seat within two stops. Guaranteed!

Be aware, however: you're not the only one who knows these rules. The MOBF in particular is just as aware of subway herd tendencies as you are now. In fact, she's better equipped to act on these observations, as her large bulk and overwhelming SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT powers are more than a match for the mild-mannered, average and tired nine-to-fiver just trying make it home after a long day. So be wary and stick to your guns. You have to be absolutely fierce! If you must give ground to the HUNGRY raging MOBF, have no fear. Simply reuse the rules stated above to hunt down another target who will give up their seat soon. In midtown Manhattan, there's usually more than one prospect on any given subway car.

Just remember: relax. You can do it!

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