A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
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By Nina Pajak

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There are a lot of unspoken rules on the New York City subways. Stand up for elderly or pregnant people. Don’t block the doors. Let people off before you get on. Take off your backpack. Save the Big Mac for when you get above ground. Don’t touch anyone. Don’t look at anyone. Don’t touch anything and then touch your face or your food or your phone. Try not to touch anything at all. Don’t sit on the benches unless you enjoy keeping bedbugs as pets.Quit it with the manspreading, thundernuts. If it falls on the floor, purify it with fire (preferably) before resuming use. The five second rule does not exist within the confines of the MTA. Use your doggone headphones, gosh durn it. Don’t hog the pole. Don’t lick the pole. Don’t lick your hand and then touch the pole and then lick your hand again. Just keep your tongue in your mouth, okay? Really, if you’re a licker, you should probably just stick to walking, or consider moving to one of those spotless Scandanavian countries where everyone is hale and hearty and robot wet-vacs scoot around cleaning everything in sight five times a day.

It’s a lot to remember (and plenty of people choose not to try), but it really should come naturally to anyone with basic common sense and a healthy fear of GERMS. And for those of you “well-adjusted” folks who think us Purell-freaks are neurotic drama queens, you can suck it (metaphorically, ew), because now science is on our side. Over the last year and a half, researchers from Weill Cornell have been collecting and studying DNA samples taken from all over our subway system, in an effort to learn more about the microbes and bacteria that ride the trains with us every day. According to a relatively nauseating article in the Wall Street Journal:

In 18 months of scouring the entire system, [one researcher] has found germs that can cause bubonic plague uptown, meningitis in midtown, stomach trouble in the financial district and antibiotic-resistant infections throughout the boroughs.

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And the bugs aren’t just sliding up and down the poles, like you would think. They were found on Metrocard machines, turnstiles, and railings, too. Basically, the place is crawling with creeps, although the scientists point out that most of the bugs they found are harmless, some are actually good, and even the baddies were not present in dangerous levels. More than anything, the good doctors intend to paint a picture of the microbiology of our healthy transit system, so that they may one day more easily identify and track outbreaks. Plus, they got to find out all sorts of fascinating dirt on us, like what we eat (a lot of pickled cabbage?), what kinds of animals we keep as pets, how often we wash our hands (not enough!), and whether it hurts when we pee (UTIs, you guys). Also, now I have a pretty plausible explanation for how I manage to get violent food poisoning once a quarter.

So, the official takeaway here is: science is cool, microbiology is helpful and interesting, and EEEW EVERYTHING IS SO GROSS. No, just kidding. (Not kidding.)

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Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!