Guerilla NYC Subway Etiquette

Thoreau said it:

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.

These words have too often come to mind when I’ve taken the subway to work over the past decades. Every morning I squeeze into a packed car, I die a little. I die a little more when the aircon is on the fritz.

And my “song” is too often courtesy of a wannabe-DJ straphanger with an urge to share Lady Gaga’s latest by means of leaky iPhone earbuds pushed to their tinny sonic limits.

New Yorkers are supposedly quick to get in your face when you invade their personal space.

The false bravado of Dustin Hoffman’s Ratso Rizzo is the cliché:

I’m walkin’ here! I’m walkin’ here!

That was over 40 years ago. Times have changed. Most New Yorkers have switched to passive aggression nowadays. The increasing pussification of the City continues, some might say. It’s even worse underground.

Nobody makes eye contact with strangers on the subway except rubes, drunks, panhandlers, perverts, cops, criminals and schizophrenics. It’s an ironclad rule as old as the tracks. Getting into a beef with a fellow passenger can turn violent quickly and with no place to go you’re flirting with the front page of the New York Post no matter how it turns out.


Artist Jason Shelowitz has begun posting brilliant  parody MTA change service signs instructing passengers on proper subway etiquette. Gotta love it, but Jason suggests savvy riders swipe the silkscreened signs before the MTA tears them down.

Subway Douchery is now recording for posterity, with sharp commentary, photographs of self-entitled douchebag underthings shattering the Golden Rule worldwide.

It’s a start, anyway.

A decade or so back, the MTA launched a campaign to encourage the most basic and sensible subway rule: Let the passengers off before you try to crowd into the train. It actually worked! For a year or two. Now it’s worse than ever.

Most riders wisely won’t risk saying shit when they see douchebags behaving badly underground. The MTA should hire Jason Shelowitz to continue his guerrilla campaign.