Nina In New York: George Orwell Never Had to Ride the Subway

A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.

By Nina Pajak

This morning, like most others, I flung myself into the doorway of the crowded #1 train. I slithered my way through the crowd of people who all insisted on cramming into the door area rather than filtering further into the car. I battled my way to where I’d spotted a hole in the pack, close enough to reach a pole. And I would have grabbed it, were it not for some chick who had her phone in one hand and a giant Starbucks cup in the other, casually wrapping her entire body around the pole that at least twelve other people would have been sharing if she could have waited two minutes to start playing Brickbreaker.

Now, I don’t care who you are, where you came from, or how long you’ve been in this city. There are certain standards of mass transit etiquette to which everyone must adhere. You shouldn’t need a handbook to know not only that other people exist, but that there are dozens of them in your immediate square footage. It’s beyond me.

So what’s the recourse here? Do I tap her on the shoulder, get her attention and then say, “excuse me?” That seems too reasonable. Do I sneer audibly and roll my eyes and shake my head to whomever around me notices? Yes. But that does not get me any useful result other than an opportunity to act irritated. I’ve seen people yell loudly at others to move, lecture doorway blockers, and violently shove people out of their way. But it takes a special kind of disgruntled New Yorker to be that guy, and I’m just not there yet.

I’m afraid the etiquette of dealing with subway etiquette offenders is too burdensome on the innocent, so the creeps just get away with their bad behavior. We need a better system! Perhaps the MTA could install little CCTV cameras in the cars so someone could catch offenders in the act. Some governing body who might oversee and manage riders’ behavior. I don’t know, like a sort of big brother watching over us. I’m not sure if anyone has ever thought of this before, but I see it working out:

“Dear jerks, get out of the way of the door when people are entering or exiting the train. Nobody wants to have to touch you. Especially you, sir, with the filthy coat.”

“Hey lady, wait until everyone is off before you get on the train. If you were that important, you wouldn’t be taking the subway anyway.”

Nothing works like a public shaming! And lots of MTA conductors already make furious editorial announcements, to every passenger’s delight. Why not just institutionalize that? Right? Am I right? Aah, I’m right.

Plus, it would probably cut down on things like littering, theft, and brazen nose picking. Do you think we don’t see you? We see you, and it’s gross.


What do you think about NYC subway etiquette? Let us know in the comments section…

Dear Readers: I’ll now be writing about city life every day from now on. While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

The Nina Archives:

Nina In New York: NYC Dept. Of…Ew, Gross

Do You Know Gus?

I Quit The Gym. No, Really.

Monday Morning Gripes And Grumbles


One Comment

  1. Auburn Dale says:

    My favorite is at Penn Station or Grand Central, where the suburbanite railroad types get on and stand in front of a row of EMPTY seats! They won’t sit down, and they won’t let YOU sit down. Then, when I ask to sit, they look at me as if I had three heads.

  2. nathan says:

    Not your fault but your daily whine is a bit off key with whats going on in the world. You mite wanna re-think it.

    1. BullRoo says:

      Amen nathan. I’ve noticed over the past few years, a steady decline in the quality of reporting on CBS. I’ve been migrating to other news outlets for real local news, bypassing the infotainment offered here. I think this whining Nina segment may have actually sealed the deal for me. It seems CBS needs a ground up overhaul. With all that’s going on in the world, Revolution in the Maghreb, Earthquakes, wars, starvation, a growing homeless problem, financial collapse, pilfering bankers, wall street greed, government corruption….. etc etc, this’s what they feature on their homepage, a whining yuppie princess. REALLY?!

  3. PIKE BISHOP JR. says:

    very soon we will be reading more winning posts from the teenage nebraskin..all about our mayor and how great he is..i can see into the future..look..if he pushed that moron black up the anus of the so called education dept/. would you not be surprised she will be hissy-fitting about how our mayor boychick is not running us into why cant we be friends? cause many beings are stupid slaves too their belief that they are and many suffer no fools or people who think they can write ..

  4. Dogmeat says:

    So glad I don’t have to ride the subway anymore. Too many stupid people wearing too much cologne/perfume, blocking the doors, entering when people are still leaving, pole hogs, legs open hogging the seats, newspaper in your face, headphones blaring, door holding, Selfish idiots!

  5. Jody says:

    How about when someone has the point of their newspaper like right in your face. If everyone would just put themselves in the others shoes maybe they’d realize how uncomfortable they are making the next person.

  6. Karen Sonnersen says:

    I just sat what’s on my mind to the A-holes ,most move
    or do something about their uncivil manners.
    “You don’t ask you don’t get” should be the motto of this city.

  7. Gregg says:

    All anyone has to do is to ride the New York subways for a while to see and understand how uncivilized ,rude,gross,dirty and just general pigs people can be ! If the New York subway passangers is any judgement of Americans, I am very embarresed to be an American !

  8. BullRoo says:

    Maybe you should count your blessings.

    1. BullRoo says:

      I’m just sayin’ Nina. In the grand scheme of things, is your life really that difficult? These people do this every morning, commuting to jobs for probably very little pay. Wake up New Yorkers. We’re not the toughest kids on the block.

      1. BullRoo says:

        STFU and enjoy some Ozzy

      2. Sioux says:

        Just because they work in low-paying jobs doesn’t give them the right to be inconsiderate of others who are underpaid.

      3. Don't Get It says:

        Wait a second. Why do you assume that its the people in low-paying jobs who are causing problems in the subway? My observations are just the opposite – the yuppies on their cell phones, Ipods, Kindles, and the tourists are the worst.

      4. John says:

        Sioux: BullRoo is referring to commuters in India.

        Don’t Get It: Wait, why Kindles? A Kindle is a book. The average person reading a Kindle is doing nothing different from the average person reading a book.

  9. LexingtonLine says:

    As a born New Yorker, I’ve been riding the subway all my life. There IS strict etiquette, but it’s not known to yuppies from Nebraska! Aircraft-carrier-sized strollers and bicycles do NOT belong on the rush-hour subway. Children who do not pay fares are supposed to sit on parents’ laps, not occupy seats & kick people! Real New Yorkers don’t eat large messy meals and toss the debris under the seat! Or wave splashy Starbucks containers around. We truly need the old metal straps, though; there aren’t enough poles to cling to, and at only 5 foot 6 inches I find it extremely difficult to reach & hold on to the overhead bar. And, by the way, George Orwell rode the London subway; probably gave him the horrors!

  10. BullRoo says:

    It’s great that your life’s so worry free. Honey, I walk with Canadian crutches and experience the same things. Get over it Nina. Perhaps it’s time to move out of the city. So you’re suggesting a costly camera system because you had a bad morning!? Sure sure, great, we’ll have MTA send you the bill.
    Toughen up honey! You’re not in Kansas anymore.
    Did someone say public shaming?

    1. Zilph says:

      It’s satirical, you dope.

      1. will says:

        THAT’S SATIRE!? Ubu Roi, now that’s satire.

      2. BullRoo says:

        I don’t think Nina would know satire if it came up and slapped her in the face

        …then pushed her off the subway.

        Sorry princess.

  11. Sioux says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I HATE those people who cluster around the door and make me shove through them in order to exit. It’s beyond rude.And I hate those men (why is it always men?) who aren’t even fat yet spread their legs over two seats. People who board with bikes are another pain. Great column, funny and absolutely right.

    1. Caustic Soprano says:

      They all have jock itch

  12. Marigolds says:

    I have to laugh when I see a mom pushing a stroller in between closing train doors. So stupid.

    1. Auburn Dale says:

      Ah, yes, the baby-as-doorstop routine. We all see parents doing that, as if a small, soft, squishy baby could really win against a pair of large, solid, heavy subway doors. Where are the cops and social workers when you need them??

  13. Joel says:

    Strollers on the train are horrendous!

  14. S.M. says:

    just knock the starbucks cup out of her hand and grab the pole while she’s picking it up.

  15. jtorres says:

    There are clever ads, there are signs on the seats (for elderly or disbabled people), there are all types of ways used to try and teach people. Announcements will change nothing. People will just turn up their Ipods. In all my years in New York, I’ve only seen 2 parents (both men) make their sons stand to give a lady their seats. I’ve done it to my godson and my goddaughter (both teens) That’s the only way you learn manners

  16. Humphrey Zilph says:

    I’ve been that guy lecturing at the doorway. It doesnt work! It’s time for a new system.

  17. edward says:

    You can add the multiple bag-toting and the backpackers.These offenders fail to realize that those packs are like another person standing there, taking up so much space.No one can get by and they usually batter you as the train progresses, totally oblivious.

  18. California Anne says:

    I hate people like that! What’s even worse are the men who spread their legs open so wide while they sit that they take up 2 seats! People have no manners anymore.

    1. Skinny Willy says:

      Hey California Anne,
      What about the women who have no idea how big there a@@ is and still demand to sit in that 3” space between people…I wouldnt just focus on the men

      1. S.M. says:

        hey, skinny willy, you know you l-o-v-e those women! but you’re not incorrect.

  19. Diane says:

    If they’ve got posters telling you what not to drink, surely they can make clever little ads that tell you not to take up more seats or railing room than you need, or reminding you to offer seats to elderly or visibly pregnant people….

  20. Leslie says:

    I’ve been following you every day–this is your funniest column yet!

  21. Dave Z says:

    I switched jobs just so that I could start walking to work. But now I deal with people who have no idea how to walk in the city. Can’t win.

  22. simpleton says:

    I usually reach over (I’m taller than most) and let the offender look into my armpit. It works well in the summer.

  23. Bridget says:

    Dig your knuckles into the B’s back. It will get your pioint across and maybe a dirty look.

Comments are closed.

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