Metal and Plastic
I’m one of those people who sleep on the subway. Perhaps those around me know that I’ve stayed up all night writing my English paper. Or perhaps their assumption is that I too easily give in to the subway’s lulling motion. Both assumptions are not far from the truth. I believe that you learn most about a person’s character by the way they act on the subway.
I’ve taken the subway with a multitude of people. I must say, though it may sound crazy, I’ve had some of the most in-depth conversations of my life on the subway. But one thing I noticed on the subway is that people are just themselves. There’s no pressure to impress anyone because your companions are people you’ll never see again. The quiet girl who sits in the back and never raises her hand is louder than you’d have ever suspected her voice would allow. The ditzy girl who everyone looks down on is studying for her AP Calculus exam. I feel that, on the subway, I see the best and the worst in people.
The rude people of the world do not let the elderly, disabled, pregnant, or exhausted sit. Better yet, they pretend to be asleep such as to hide their rudeness. They push and shove people out of the way even when they’re an hour early. And they give the dirtiest of looks when your music is on even decibel too loud.
The hasty are never on time. They might, perhaps have not heard they’re cell phone alarm the first time and therefore missed their train. Of course, after 7:20, the train no longer comes at 3 minute intervals but at 5 to 10. I have been one of the rushed, but not as rushed as some. I try not to shove myself into the 2/3 train at Times Square when it is obvious I’ll never fit. The truly hasty will get on that train, even if they don’t take another breath of air until Chambers Street. I prefer to come to terms with the fact that 1st period is just not going to happen that day, regardless of whether I make this train or not.
And, of course, the true Rector Scale of a person’s patience is the Sigh. The patient person does not Sigh very audibly when “the dispatcher is holding up this train.” The impatient, however, Sighs so loudly, it is quite possible that the conductor, 5 cars down, can hear. And the sound of their feet stomping on the floor, numbering the seconds since the train’s halt probably reaches the dispatcher at the next station
Our judgment of people is never completely sound. But if you have to look at a person’s personality, the subway is where they most let it out. You cannot truly know a person until you take the subway with them. Somehow the metal and plastic of a subway car brings out the best and the worst a person can be.