A lesson in commuting etiquette

Apologies for the lack of blog posts in recent weeks. I recently took on an exciting long-term editorial assignment so I’ve been happily busy amid scores of print and digital copy.

Unlike many of my other freelance writing gigs, this job requires me to work in an office, putting me back into the 9-5 commuter world. Being shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of New Yorkers in tight subway cars is actually a job in itself! You never know what sights and smells you will encounter on any given day.

Rather than sigh and complain, I’ve decided to post this lesson in commuter etiquette which will hopefully inspire slightly better behavior and more pleasant train (and bus) rides across the city.

Here are 5 ways in which our commutes can be made more bearable. Riders, are you listening?:

1. No perfume before 9am – The other morning I nearly gagged on a floral scent worn by the woman sitting next to me. At 8am, a strong smell like that is hard to take, yet alone at any time of day. My advice? Save the heavy perfumes for your hot Friday night dates, not an early morning subway ride. And gentlemen, that means you too. The only old spice I want to smell at that hour is the cinnamon in my cappucino. If the offensive perfume smell wasn’t enough that morning, the woman wearing it was sitting so close to me, she was practically in my lap, which brings me to Tip #2.

2. Mind the gap – No, I’m not talking about the gap between the train and the platform, I’m referring to the amount of space between seated riders on a train. If you see there’s hardly any room, don’t sit there. If I had a choice between being squashed or standing up, I’d choose standing every time. So why don’t other people feel the same?

3. Listen to the music (but quietly, please) – Okay, we all like our music (myself included), but is there really a need to blast it from your iPod or iPhone? Maybe the rest of us don’t want to hear “Blurred Lines” for the 1000th time or the latest Justin Timberlake song. So do us a favor – by all means, enjoy your tunes, but do so responsibly. Hey, you’ll benefit too – you’ll reduce your chances of going deaf!

4. Get a grip – Actually, #4 is not about griping; it’s about gripping. My “tips for grips” when riding the subway is to hold onto the poles via the palms of your hand (instead of grasping them with your fingers). It’s simply more sanitary. And if you do wind up fully gripping the poles, make sure you have some hand sanitizer nearby. (Frankly, I don’t know why the MTA doesn’t install hand sanitizer dispensers at subway stations – if gyms and hospitals can have them, why not subways? We pay enough for our metrocards!)

5. To the left, to the left – My final tip is an organizational one. In London, what I like most about riding the Tube is that commuters are instructed to stay to the left of stairs and escalators so those in a hurry can pass them on the left. It’s very organized and works well. Why New York does not follow in London’s footsteps is beyond me. Every morning it takes several minutes for people to navigate the stairs at the Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center station. With so many people moving in all different directions, transferring lines or exiting a station can become a complete headache. Why not implement a system like London’s that will keep foot traffic flowing?

Got that, MTA?

Shortening my bucket list

Last weekend my bucket list got a little bit shorter: I finally visited Graceland. Image

In honor of our 40th birthdays, a childhood friend and I decided to take a jaunt to Elvis’ old place. It happened to be his birthday week as well, making the trip even more fitting.

As expected, the house was a shrine to the King, complete with collections of his awards, signature white jumpsuits, even his private planes. You could feel his spirit in the place.

Memphis itself was a trip. To finally experience the blues and BBQ on Beale Street, was quite a treat. And the people: everyone we encountered was as friendly as could be. Unlike New York where people tend to be abrupt and closed off, people in Memphis went out of there way to say hello. Chivalrous men bought us drinks and held doors open for us. Why can’t most New York men do that?

Best of all was the laid-back, non-rushed vibe. My friend and I haven’t felt that relaxed in years. It’s truly a different way of life outside New York City. I need to experience that more often and in 2014, I’ll make sure that I will.