As a capitalist society eager to milk any market, it was only a matter of time before not just the trains, the MetroCards and the platforms but subway delays became, not yet a physical billboard for advertising, but a tool to sell products. (Being so allegedly deep in debt, it’s not a bad idea for the MTA to take advantage of delays to advertise products, though – “This delay, due to signal malfunctions, is sponsored by Dove Soap.”)
Speks are an “updated version” of Buckyballs, those magnetic ball choking hazards children kept swallowing and having their organs ripped up by until they were banned in 2012. Instead of selling them to kids, Speks has switched demographics and is now selling them to “frazzled NYC commuters,” who are, “frustrated by subway delays,” and seeking to “mash away stress underground,” according to a promotional email they sent us.
The email even sported a reference to Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio, advising weary straphangers to use the tiny (but powerful!) balls to distract ourselves while the two duke it out over who’s paying for repairs.
It’s a clever enough strategy that we’re writing about it and thus essentially giving Speks free publicity, but in reality you cannot use these toys on the subway without looking like an asshole – maybe if you’re under 18, fine, but even then you’d have to not drop any of the balls and not get in people’s space while playing with them in order to maintain a sliver of dignity and status as a respectful straphanger.
Fidget toys go beyond traditional subway etiquette into yet unfounded territory: will fidgeters be courteous or prove themselves unable to control themselves with spinner or magnetic balls in hand? Time will tell.
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