Friday, January 29, 2010

Step Right Up and Sit Right Down

I have a confession to make. I am completely and totally obsessed with getting a seat on the subway during my morning commute. I leave during peak hours and very rarely get a seat right away. But when we roll into the Jay St.Borough Hall stop, all of that changes. It's a hot transfer spot from the F to A. I am ready to pounce on the next available seat and no one can stop me.

So, I'd like to report my findings on the 3 best ways to get yourself a much coveted seat on the New York City Subway:

1. Position yourself next to the right kind of people
Pregnant people, the elderly, the disabled...they are my subway seat archenemies. I have no chance against them, so I position myself as far away as possible. They get the seat. There's no point competing. Fortunately, there's still some kind of weird chivalry on the MTA and if I stand next to a man, the odds are better that if a seat becomes available, I'll get it. Female Brooklynites in their skinny jeans and slouchy boots are another story. They, like me, are ready to pounce and they can often squeeze into tiny spaces. They're more likely to fit next to large people who take up the space of 1 and 1/2 average sized people. They are the biggest competition. Proceed with caution when you stand next to them.

2. Figure out who is getting off
I always place myself near someone who is seated and who I believe will be getting on the A train, so that when they get up I can immediately take their seat. It's a little game I play but it's becoming increasingly hard. The A train, perhaps more than any other train in NY, is incredibly diverse. It stops in the financial district, TriBeCa, the West Village, Chelsea, the theatre district, the Upper West Side, Harlem, and Washington Heights. I mean, this could be anyone from a business suit to a hipster to a Dominican person to a Columbia student to a tourist. It could be anyone! Lately an A train passenger is just too hard to point out. But say you need a seat just when you get to Chinatown, I'm not trying to be stereotypical, but the odds are a little better that you know who is getting off.

3. Keep you eyes open. If you see something, don't say something: JUST GO!
Since #2 is proving to be difficult, keen observation is my next trick. As people approach their time of exit, some shifting is bound to happen. Books become bookmarked, iphones get tucked in the pocket, newspapers get folded, and bags are placed in prime position for subway escape. But guaranteeing that you are standing in just the right spot to grab the seat from that one person who is getting off is next to impossible (nevermind that some people are just antsy. Not that I would know anything about that...)

In conclusion...there is absolutely no surefire way to obtain seating in a crowded subway car. Everything and anything you can do is absolutely futile. Luck is never on your side during rush hour.

Despite all of that, I sincerely hope that you all fight the odds and find yourself a nice, cold, hard, plastic, covered-in-is-that-poop-or-just-a-frito seat on your next subway ride. Godspeed.


  1. Don't forget the "look ahead" approach. And I'm talking the seconds it takes for the train to pull up and stop in front of you. Pay attention. Look through the windows as they go past so if there are any empty spots in your car you'll be ready to pounce. If you spot one, walk quickly and with purpose.

    P.S. It also helps if you're obviously pregnant. People might insist you sit down. That is cool.

  2. NYC subways are entertaining for those of us who travel once a year to NYC. Not a source of fun as a regular commute. It's got to be a frustrating experience.

  3. Great advice! As a former New Yorker I totally agree!

  4. Awesome column, and so true! More on Jen's comment - it helps to be near the front or back of a train. They tend to be less crowded.