After 2 long weeks, today I was finally able to use NYC’s public transportation! I was out of town last week and the week before, hurricane Sandy made the MTA shut down their services for four days. To be honest, riding the train can get pretty ridiculous at times, but today was borderline chaotic!
This is why I thought about how things have changed; at the beginning using the subway system was an adventurous journey. It was interesting to figure out what train I was going to take, which direction I had to go, and it was an achievement when I already knew what to do without looking at the map.
Everything was cool because it was part of my “just arrived to NYC” stage, until… I became a permanent inhabitant of the underground! No, I never lived there! But, I would spend a lot of time waiting for the train to arrive so I could say, it became like a second home. To top it off, I had to deal with massive crowds, pushing, pulling, rubbing (EWW), yelling, getting lost, getting confused, falling sleep, missing my stop, getting stuck for 30 minutes between stations, seeing people throw up, almost get attack by a rat, etc! Yes, it can get very overwhelming!
For those reasons, I decided to compile some tips to make your subway experience, less hectic (well at least to help you keep your sanity).
- First thing you have to do is to get a pocket size NYC map with all the subway lines. (This is a must if you are new in town)
- Then try to learn the color/number of the lines you will use the most.
- Learn what UPTOWN AND DOWNTOWN means, this could sound silly for a lot of you but that was one of the most important things that my cousin taught me. He said: Ok, I don’t have time for this so you have to get this through your head once, uptown means UP, meaning that if you are in Manhattan an Uptown train will take you to the Uptown Manhattan, The Bronx or Queens. And downtown means DOWN, if you are in Manhattan it will take you to Lower Manhattan or Brooklyn. Trust me, don’t underestimate the “power” of the uptown and downtown words, they can save you from getting lost!
- If you are going to take the subway more than 3 times a week you might as well get a monthly Metrocard that costs $ 104. It’s better than getting a $20 Metrocard, it will be gone after the 8th time you use it and when you see INSUFFICIENT FARE after you swiped your card, I’m sure can be an annoying situation (especially if you are holding the line or you are rushing to catch the train) Plus if you buy a metrocard with a credit or debit card and you lose it, you can call the MTA and get a reimbursement of the remaining credit.
- Think, act and walk FAST!: Most of the people are really in a rush (Majority of New Yorkers are always in a rush) you don’t want to walk like you are strolling around Central Park. You want to move FAST (yes, like the speed of light). By doing this, you will avoid hearing when and how you are going to die.
- Right to stand, Left to keep walking: If you are taking the escalators you can’t stand in the left side of the escalator, if you want to do that then move to the RIGHT SIDE. Left side is TO KEEP MOVING!
- Rats: If you have phobia to rats then this is not the place you want to be. You will see them walking on the rail tracks and sometimes on the platforms. Eventually you will get used to and you will even find them cute (creepy but I find them cute when they are walking on the rails LOL)
- Platform: Stand behind the yellow lines of the platform, you don’t want to slip, fall or being pushed (Yes there’s crazy people out there pushing others to the rail tracks).
- Run!: If you hear or see that the train is approaching the station you better RUN. They won’t wait for you and most likely the train conductor will close the doors right in front of your nose.
- Don’t hold the door!: Don’t try to act “smart” putting your hand between doors while they are about to close. It will HURT, I promise! A lot of people do that because they are used to it (yes, they are masochists!) Also a lot of times, trains broke down because “Smart” people do that kind of stuff. I’m pretty sure you don’t want to be hate by all the train passengers (they will stare at you and you will desired never have done that). Oh! And if you are planning to use your purse or bag instead of any other parts of your body, let me tell you that a lady did that in another state and the train kept going and her purse and arm got stuck…she almost died!
- If you feel sick STAY HOME: A lot of people take the train feeling sick and this put your life in danger and creates an unpleasant “situation” for everyone on the train. I remember last year a girl fainted, the train didn’t move for more than 30 minutes because we had to wait for paramedics to come. All trains behind us were stuck and the express lines stop running!!
- Don’t stare at people: You will see different types of people everywhere in NY, especially in the train. Try not to stare at them because it could create awkward situations, and that’s something you don’t want. An aunt told me a story, she was staring at a girl’s hair style and the girl cursed at my aunt asking her why the f$^#$ she was looking at?. I asked my aunt what she did and she told me “I pretended that I didn’t understand a word of what she was saying and I looked somewhere else”. You will save yourself a bad moment if you don’t make eye contact with people on the train. New Yorkers are mostly known for not being “happy people”, especially if they are tired, drunk, hangover, or just crazy!
- If a train car is empty, don’t get on it: Usually train cars are crowded, especially during rush hours. If you see a car empty don’t think it’s your lucky day because it’s certainly not. When a car is empty there’s most likely a homeless guy with a horrendous smell. You won’t stand it! I got into an empty car and I almost throw up. I don’t recommend it!
- Just take it: a lot of people get mad when they are being pushed or because they feel uncomfortable in the train. Well, you should just take it as it is. If you are looking for a nice, comfortable transportation then take a taxi because if you feel uncomfortable I’m pretty much sure the rest of the passengers feel the same way.
- Take a seat and offer your seat: If you are really tired and want to seat you better be ALERT because seats are always lacking, especially during rush hours. If you see that someone is grabbing their bags, purses or backpacks and getting ready to stand up, then you should move in front of them so you can take their seat. BUT, if you see that there’s an old lady/man, a pregnant woman, a disabled person or a parent with his/her kids YOU BETTER STAND UP AND OFFER YOUR SEAT. It’s a matter of respect and politeness.
- Don’t be a pervert: No one will condole you being a pervert just because the train is crowed. So BEHAVE! And if someone is getting to close and you feel your personal space is been invaded then ask them to move away!
- If you don’t fit, take the next one: If you don’t fit and you see there are a lot of people in the train, then wait for the next train! It’s really annoying and disrespectful when people try to get in and there’s no more space.
- Wait: Wait until everyone got off the train before even thinking to get in the train. Please wait on the sides not in front of the door.
- Don’t fight: there are a lot of YouTube videos on train fights; you sure don’t want to be in one of them. Try to avoid conflicts or arguments; you never know who you are dealing with.
- Get entertained: Take a book or any electronic device with you that will keep you entertained
- Free entertainment: You will see singers, dancers, magicians, poets, and all kind of artists in the trains and on the train stations. Give some change to those who did a good job!
- Don’t fall sleep: it may be impossible for some people but try not to fall sleep, you can miss your destination or even worse you can hit your head like this guy (OR WORSE): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7qxmFCKZpk
- Be cautious: If you see something suspicious on the train don’t hesitate to inform the cops or the train conductor. Also, if there’s an emergency listen carefully the announcements, I got stuck between train stations once and we had to evacuate. It wasn’t fun!
- MTA is MTA: Most likely once you get used to the MTA (this is if you are new) you will start hating the MTA as much as every New Yorker. Why? Because majority of times they suck! Service is not at its best and the prices keep rising! We can’t stand MTA but we can’t live without it either!
- Last thing, when the train conductor says “STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING DOORS, PLEASE” …do it, he really mean it!!