No pooping, and other lesser-known subway etiquette

You've gotta be on your guard
You’ve gotta be on your guard

We all know that a crowded subway car is no excuse for sexual misconduct (or sexual conduct, for that matter; get a room, guys). We’ve all been the victim of manspreading at one point or another, and we’ve definitely had to fight people to share the pole that they thought was their personal leaning post. But what about the lesser-known rules of subway etiquette, the ones the MTA doesn’t advertise on its website, via press release, or by adorning train walls with cute cartoons?

There are problems more serious than “showtime” plaguing the New York underground, and Brokelyn feels a moral responsibility to inform you. Let our staff contributors’ tales—and the appropriate Seinfeld reaction GIFs—inspire you to take heed. Avoid becoming the victim of poor subway etiquette, but above all, please don’t exhibit this behavior at the expense of your fellow commuters.


Is that… wait. via Giphy

No pooping.

I was on the 2 on a Saturday night and the train doors had just closed. Before we pulled out of the station, a woman in my car who was looking at the platform yelled, “I hope I’m not the only one who is seeing this!” Then there was a chorus of “Ohhhh, shit!” from the other passengers, and I saw a woman standing in the middle of the stairs with her pants pulled down, kinda wiping her butt. (I don’t know if she actually pooped. I was afraid to look.) I haven’t experienced many moments where everyone on the train unites to completely freak out. An older woman in my car started explaining how our mooner was high on “that new synthetic marijuana,” which was taking over the city and making everyone allergic to pants. She seemed excited to explain this, like she’d been rehearsing it for a while, so I was happy for her. – Camille Lawhead


I can’t watch how this ends. via Giphy

Do not jump in the path of a train.

This should be common sense, but I’m not even talking about the intent to harm oneself. I once witnessed a man jump in front of an oncoming train at Union Square and take off running into the darkness of the subway tunnel. I’m not sure what his reason was for doing this… probably there was no rational thought behind it at all. Subway service on the green line was suspended for hours while the subway tunnels were searched for this runaway. No idea if he was ever found, or if he’s still traversing the New York underground to this day. – Margaret Bortner


Straight outta hell. Via Giphy

Please refrain from wiping the filth of Satan on innocent passersby.

A large, middle-aged woman approached me in a subway station, teetering back and forth. When she reached me she yelled, “Have you SEEN the LIGHT of Jesus CHRIST?” And I, at the same volume, shouted “NOOO-OPE!”

Instead of staggering away like she did with the other people in the station, she started wiping her hands on my sleeve, screaming this time, “I WIPE MY FILTH ON YOU! I WIPE MY FILTH ON YOU!” I got the hell out of there while the woman was still screaming at me about the devil. – Conal Darcy


Stop, please stop. via Giphy

Don’t scream your religious agenda at people, regardless of what it is.

For some unknown reason, the subway strikes many people as the perfect place to proselytize. Not only is this incredibly annoying and rude, but has anyone ever been brought to Jesus (or whomever) because someone screamed at them while shoving a pamphlet in their face? And for those damn Scientologists… stop being so friendly! I have fallen for accepting your marketing materials for the last time! – Margaret Bortner


A message from concerned chicken-owners. via Giphy

When traveling with your chicken, please keep it off the floor.

I rode the 6 Train with a man who was lying on the floor, cuddling a live chicken. All things considered, he wasn’t really causing a problem, but he was blocking the doors. Stop Chickenspreading, everyone. – Tim Donnelly


Watch where you’re dripping. via Giphy

Sweat is inevitable, but try not to sweat on other passengers.

Once I was sitting and felt a single drop of water land on me. I looked up and saw the guy standing above me sweating profusely and just looked like a complete wreck, like he needed to see a doctor immediately because his hours were numbered. I don’t think I’ve ever shuddered so deeply. I hope he’s still alive. – Camille Lawhead


Spare us the big finish. via Giphy

No masturbating. Just no.

I was masturbated at while wearing a school uniform. Classy. – Camille Lawhead

A guy was masturbating while sitting in the two-person window seat – not exactly my opinion of what a love seat should be used for. I couldn’t look away. Eventually another guy yelled at him and they started to argue so I switched cars. He was at it for a solid few minutes before being confronted by the personal-touch police, though.  – Ariella Serur


We shouldn’t have to say this. via Giphy

But seriously, a crowded subway car is no excuse for sexual misconduct.

On a crowded rush hour L Train, we were crushed cheek-by-jowl and swaying in time with the rocking of the barreling train, as one. I was standing up, with my back pressed against the doors. I don’t remember what I was reading, but it was really engrossing, because it took probably much longer than it should have to realize that the train itself wasn’t really rocking anymore, but somehow I still was. Imagine yourself coming slowly out of the reverie of an intense bookworld and into the real one, where you have strangers pressed up against you on all sides, but on one side there is a very large man rhythmically and rather vigorously thrusting his pelvis into you — at about ribcage level since in this exercise you are, like I am, very short. What would you do?

A guy about two people over from me caught my eye, flicked his gaze to the humper, and said very clearly, “Are you okay?” I shook my head uncertainly and he clenched his jaw and went “HEY,” staring now right at the big galoot, who froze mid-hump and kind of seemed to shrink into himself a little. We made it to 1st Avenue and I lost sight of the humper. I did not lose sight of the savior fella, whom I thanked very seriously. – Oriana Leckert

Thanks (and our sympathies) to Conal Darcy, Tim Donnelly, Camille Lawhead, Oriana Leckert, Ariella Serur

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