Friends, we have come to a critical point in the history of the world. We have come to a point where mass transit is becoming even more easy to use and in many cases is considerably more affordable than other modes of transportation. That being said, I think we should be on the same page when it comes to what is okay and not okay when it comes to behavior while taking different sorts of public transportation.

The Phone
Don’t get me wrong, I love having a mobile phone. It is incredibly useful especially since I upgraded to the iPhone and have been able to get all sorts of useful utilities that have gotten me out of countless jams. The problem seems to lay with the fact that too many people seem to suffer from the ill conceived notion that when you are speaking on your mobile phone, a cone of silence surrounds you and you are the only person who can hear what you are saying. Let me make it perfectly clear: When you are on the phone, not only can the people around you hear you but they are probably more likely to hear you than if you were speaking to a mate sitting next to you due to the incomprehensive reason that people seem to like to speak more loudly on mobile phones than when they are speaking face to face.

Therefore, please choose carefully the words that you use in conversation on the phone, whether you are speaking to a good mate or your spouse or relative. While you may think it a great idea to discuss at great length the birthing procedures related to each of your children, the rest of us are not so interested in how many fluid ounces of medication you demanded from doctors or where your husband’s video camera was pointed at the moment of crowning. Similarly, it is understandable that you are under the (mistaken) impression that everyone is keen on finding out which of your two girlfriends you will be bedding this evening and what you plan on doing with her. After all, you hear nothing but the finest of praise from both of your female friends. Please do know that we are as disinterested as can be, and if you think it looks like we are recording your phone call with our state of the art digital devices, it probably means that we are.

There are many seats to be had on trains, subway cars, and buses. However, the primary purpose of the seat is to allow a person to sit on it. Just to clarify, a briefcase is not a person. A purse is not a person. A large case of donuts is not a person. Moreover, you can pretty much figure out on your own when it is more likely that a person will need to take the place of your case of donuts based on the time of day and the day of the week along with such key information as where it is going. A Long Island Railroad train heading into Penn Station at nine in the morning is much more likely to be full of people than one going there at three in the afternoon. It has happened to me countless times that I will get on a train at six seventeen in the morning, the time when it always fills up, and when I indicate nonverbally that I want to sit down I get indignant looks from people, as though their suitcase has a greater right to take up space than I do.

On the subway, there is something a bit more disturbing that I would like to discuss briefly. Many subway trains have seats that clearly outline the amount of space a person should take while sitting in them. This clear outline comes in the form of having a bench seat that has different colors and dividing lines in between seats. See here for a good example. The benches in the middle of the car in the image allow seven people to sit on each of them. However, what frequently happens is that a person will sit down on the bench with their legs spread widely apart. This will effectively cause them to occupy 1.5 seats. When four consecutive people do this, you get four people in the space that six should occupy. Think about this before you decide you want to sprawl out on the subway.

Right Time, Right Place
We know too well that for every thing there is a time and a place. For example, frog disection is appropriate in a science classroom but it is inappropriate while in a restaurant. Panhandling does not belong on the subway. There is no reason a person should be on a subway and subjected to the desperate pleas of people who say that they have not eaten anything in days and just need a dollar or two (or a nickel or two) so that they can get something to eat. The first issue is that free eateries for those in need are widely available in the city. The second issue is that because of the first issue, many people have mixed feelings of guilt and confusion when they are giving – will the money go for food or will it purchase drugs or alcohol?

No better are people who come onto a train with large boxes of candy, saying that they are raising money for their school basketball team. I cannot help but feel certain that such schools would not encourage their students to sell the candy in this manner and I am honestly not even convinced that the teams exist whose sponsorship lays on children selling small bags of chocolate covered peanuts.

Look where you are – you’re using a mode of public transportation. The word public is significantly more important than transportation because it implies that you are not alone in this venture. Be mindful of others and have some thought – how would I feel if someone were doing this to me? Probably not so great? Perhaps time to shift behavior a little. Ride well, and oh, move over a little.