Riding the Sardine Can I Mean Subway in New York City

Subway in New York City


Being a full time blogger I travel where I want to when I want to.


When I want to means avoiding the rush hour crush in New York City. Traveling into the city, out of the city and around the city involves movements well outside of both morning and evening rush hours for me. For good reason.


Rush hour volume – on the sidewalk and subway – can be hellacious.


I took the sardine can I mean subway this morning at about 9 AM. Not peak rush. But crowded enough.


The Morning


I walked up to the Metrocard machine. Lady to my left bitching and moaning about the machine not working. MTA guy tells her to be patient. The card will come out. She complains. He stresses patience.


10 second later the card emerges. Lady happy. I am happier.


I have Rainman-like efficiency at the machine. Tops, 7 seconds from first Start swipe to removing my Metrocard. Really freaking fast. Anybody on line behind me is in for a real treat.


I grab the card. Mosey down to the platform to catch the 6 train downtown. Platform pretty empty. Good deal. But the train was 20 minutes away.


NYC subway


By the time the train pulled up we’re talking filled to the brim, bursting at the seams type crowded on the moving sardine can. I squeeze in. Thank goodness I run a bunch and eat little.


After jigsawing my way into the corner the downtown effect grows; with each stop, fewer people get off the train but more pile on.


People are polite. Genial, even. But the undercurrent is a little stressed, as is the case at rush hour.


Looking around treats riders to the full range of emotions:


  • smiling folks enjoying their smart phone games
  • sour-looking folks pissed to be going to work
  • blase folks
  • sleeping folks
  • happy folks staring around, grateful for life (me, possibly others)


Stop after stop, the elbow room dissolved. We were on top of each other, playing a subterranean game of Twister that commuters often play in the morning and evening on any workday in Manhattan.


New Yorkers are used to being crowded. Especially on subways. Especially on the 6 train headed south in the morning and on the same 6 heading north in the evening.


I counted myself fortunate to grab a nice little spot near the back door. Although I felt as constricted as a mummy I did have the tiniest bit of space to shift to and fro.


The lady beside me however showed off the new Subway Winter Line fashion: “Big Old Arm Over Yer Head.”


Subway Chic.


Most folks glued their eyeballs to their phones. Some read the paper. Old skool. Even older skool types read magazines. Some newer skool types reader their Kindle. Some snoozed. Others glanced askance, never breaking the NYC subway code known as “Don’t worry; no 2 human beings will ever make eye contact in such cramped spaces.”


After 51st I gently nudged toward the door – my stop – and politely said “Excuse me guys,” to which the throng moved left and right, not quite parting the Red Sea for Moses, but doing a fine job with the delicate dance known as allowing riders off and on packed subway trains in New York City.