Our city is beautiful during “Golden Hour.” At the conclusion of a busy day, rays of sunlight dance amongst the skyscrapers, freckling the sidewalks with honey-colored light. I watched this phenomenon from a subway platform in Woodside, Queens. My glass world glowed.
Click, click, click.
The 7 train was rounding a bend into the 52 Street Station, full of people commuting every which way. In Queens the majority of subway rails are located above ground on raised platforms. As one might imagine, this has extreme pros and cons—such as cell service and snow.
I spotted an empty-ish car and quickly began waking toward it. In summer, I had already learned that an unpopulated section of the train typically means one of two things: Either the AC isn’t working and you will sweat until you can’t see straight, or there is a very unpleasant smell waiting to attack your gag reflexes. But it was currently the dead of winter, so I took my chances.
Upon entering the subway car, I spotted about six other people. One was an intoxicated man who was mumbling to himself. This is a sad, yet common occurrence. But nothing smelled and no one was getting murdered, so I happily plopped into a seat.
But oh, how innocent I was.
“La de mo. Shit. To fippp. Oo.”
As the train began to move, I realized the disturbed man in question was becoming quite vocal. He stood and wobbled to one remote corner of the train, then continued speaking nonsense as we rolled into the next station. When the train began moving again, he loosened his belt. I looked away and tried to catch eyes with the older woman sitting across from me, but she was doing a crossword puzzle. The man slouched to my left was lost in thought, and everyone else was on the opposite end of the car.
I stared at my fingernails and tried to appear as blasé as possible.
Ah, how interesting… my nails.
The man began taking his clothes off.
My nails! They are… well, they are my nails.
The man is wearing no pants.
Maybe I should stop biting my nails?
The man is making strange noises...
Curiosity got the best of me, and I peeked back over at the belt-less man whose pants were now down to his ankles. But his posture is what stood out to me the most—why was he crouching, his bum hovering over the orange plastic seat?
No, no, NO.
That man was pooping on the subway.
That man was pooping on the subway!
“Er, espa. Din deeen!!”
And with that loud statement, I became a witness to one of the more grotesque things a human can do in an enclosed public space.
“Ewww,” I said audibly, moving to the farthest corner of the train along with the silent but annoyed crossword woman. Also please note: When one defecates on a moving train, one's waste does not remain in a singular location.
There was literally sh*t sliding all over the place.
At this point, we were arriving at the next station—my station, praise Jesus—so I pulled a wool scarf over my mouth and held my breath. A part of me felt terrible for the overly intoxicated human; the other part felt queasy. I closed my eyes as a strong stench crept toward us.
Then the doors suddenly opened and the six of us fled Poop Train. But before leaving the scene, I saw one couple enter the now deserted car, grabbing those highly-coveted empty seats. I didn’t have time to warn them—and that is a deep regret of mine.
But the train doors closed, sealing their smelly fates. And unfortunately for them, this was the last stop before Manhattan so they would be locked in Poop Train for a longer period of time than your average subway ride.
Friends, I tell you this story for a reason:
Whether it’s winter,
Whether it's rush hour,
Never enter an empty subway car.
You could get pooped on.
And now you know!
5 Subway Tips for Travelers:
Consider getting a paper map of the subway system before your trip. While cell phones are helpful, you will loose service underground for periods of time. Here’s my map recommendation.
New Yorkers might always be “on the go,” but I guarantee you can find someone to assist you—don’t be afraid to ask for directions!
New York rush hour is from approximately 7am - 9am and 4pm - 6pm. The subways will be more packed than usual during these times.
If you’re traveling alone or have sensitivities to sounds, consider getting some noise canceling headphones. It will make for a much more peaceful journey! Here’s what I pop in my ears while commuting. There’s tons of options out there.
Quick subway etiquette:
Let people off the train before trying to enter the train car.
Do not block the subway doors—move into the middle of the subway car when possible.
The left side of the escalator is for walking, and the right side of the escalator is for standing. Don’t block the lefthand side (or someone might snap at you—perhaps, me!).