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On Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness

A Guy's Guy's Observations About The NYC Subway System

Robert Manni - Wednesday, September 19, 2012
          


The NYC subways are fascinating. 


Sure, it is a matter of taste, but there are some interesting things happening below the surface of the greatest city in the world. Over the past month, I decided to turn the drudgery of my subterranean journeys throughout the city into a palette of observations to share with you. Mind you, as filthy and unbearable as the subways are in general, they reach a new level of tedium during the summer when the temperatures soar and the air stagnates along the platforms. I’m sure that I am only scratching the surface, but here goes. Let’s file this one under “the Guys’ Guy’s pursuit of happiness”. 

1-    New Yorkers read. Having spent a few months handing out branded bookmarks for my novel, THE GUYS GUY’S GUIDE TO LOVE, to unsuspecting riders who either had a physical book or e-reader in tow, I can happily report that reading is not dead my friends. I see novels, non-fiction, graphic novels, magazines, newspapers, and mobile devices all being used for reading. Of course it’s done partially to pass the time, but it is still good news. We have a literate population in transit below the city right now. Reading nurtures the mind. Digital games can be fun, but many are based on reaction and nothing more. Read on, New York! 

2-    Tuning out. I’m not one for plugging my ear buds in the second I leave my apartment. New York has plenty of stimuli without my requiring a soundtrack for every moment of my day. Of course if it’s a long ride and I did not remember to bring any reading material, I too enjoy listening to some tasty tracks while the trains rattle along. But what concerns me is that too many people stare straight ahead with ear buds connected to their iPods. And as a guy I notice way too many pretty young women doing exactly that. They are basically unapproachable. Yeah, I know there are creepy guys everywhere, but if you want the New York experience, you’ve got to mix it up with random people now and then. It’s called communication. Live a little. 

3-    Entertainment. Yesterday as I rode and switched trains between Lafayette and Broadway to West 116th Street, I was treated to an accordion player, a magician (this was a first), acapella singers, a man playing Chinese songs on the flute, and those “dancers” who swing around the poles inside of the cars. If this had been, “American Idol”, the magician would have gotten my vote. So if you forget your mobile device and your book, you can still be entertained underground. 

4-    Dress code. Let’s face it. People dress poorly in general, and although there are always good-looking women (and dudes) in skimpy outfits riding the train in the summer, I’ve noticed that a major portion of subway riders wear something with the Nike swoosh on it. Lots of chunky basketball shoes, sweats, shirts and hats are adorned by this popular symbol. If you don’t believe me, spend one ride counting how many pairs of Nike footwear you see on the train. You’ll be amazed. 

5-    Strollers. God bless all of the Moms who have to schlep their kids, toys, and that stroller on and off of the train and up and down those flights of stairs. This is no easy task. Hey fellas, if you see a lady wielding one of those heavy strollers toward the stairs, please offer to help her carry it for her. 

6-    The Happy Tourists. If you want to spot the tourists on the train, look for the animated faces that look like they are on a ride at Disneyworld. If you want to identify the New Yorker, look for the impassive, detached faces staring straight ahead or at their phone. Tourists seem to love the subway, but of course that’s because they don’t have to deal with it every day like we do. But, it is refreshing to see some semblance of delight underground. A great thing about New Yorkers, though, is that they will stumble over each other to be helpful and give directions. 

7-    The Map. Don’t sit in front of it unless you enjoy leaning to the side while confused tourists stand directly in front of you and stare past you at it…for what seems like an eternity. Not a big deal, but just sit there sometime and you’ll see what I mean. 

8-    The Ads. For every boring global brand that patronizes New Yorkers with one of those cars dressed up in a series of ads that say, “Hey, New York, grab some (European-owned mass-produced beer that was formerly an iconic American brand),” we have the local ads that delight the locals. Accordion wrestling, Dr. Zizmor-the dermatologist, and the storage facilities are but a few of my favorite brands that have produced fun local campaigns. 

This is but a smattering of underground observations. The point is that if you maintain a positive perspective, you can even have a few laughs while riding the NYC subway system. 

Guy’s Guy of The Week: Ralph Kramden of “The Honeymooners” for being a hard-working transit worker with a dream. 

Seen anything interesting lately while riding the C train?
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