Most of the people riding the New York City subway are just like you and me: pleasant, quiet, clean, everyday folks minding their own business and hoping that others do the same.
But there are certainly outliers, and sitting next to them can ruin an otherwise fast and fine commute.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the people who interrupt my morning commute on a regular basis. This post is about a different class of people -- the ones who aren't trying to interrupt your books or daydreams by asking for money or playing a harmonica. These are the people who think they're not bothering a soul. They probably aren't even trying to bother anyone. Or maybe they just don't care. Here's how to become one of them:
1. Play a game on your smartphone with the sound on. Once I thought there was a kid nearby playing one of those rainbow-colored toy xylophones. Looking around, I finally narrowed the sound down to a fellow commuter tap-tap-tapping away. Put on some headphones! Or better yet, turn the sound off.
2. Crank up your music. Yes, earbuds are certainly more convenient to cart around the city, but they bleed music like crazy. Either get better headphones or turn down your tunes. Admittedly, I'm more lenient about this when the person is listening to music I like. That isn't very often.
3. Smell. You can sometimes see this person before you smell them. It's the man (always a man) who's bundled up, often asleep and taking up an extra seat for a bag filled with his worldly possessions. Yes, he's probably homeless, and I do feel sorry for him. But sitting next to him, even a few feet away, can make you nauseated within a stop or two. He's surrounded by empty seats.
4. Eat obnoxious food. Your sandwich stinks, and you're probably going to spill your coffee all over me.
5. Have a loud conversation. It's even worse if it's interesting, because then I'm really distracted. Note that this does not apply if you're speaking a language that I don't know. If I can't understand you, then it's just white noise. Carry on. Note #2: Applies only during morning and evening commutes. Evenings and weekends are fair game.
Kids -- even crying infants -- don't bother me. They don't know any better, and their parents are generally trying their best to hush them up. Tourists are fine, too -- I don't mind at all explaining the difference between Court and Cortlandt streets or letting them know how far away their stop is. I try my best to be polite. That's simply what I'm asking of everyone else, too.