Despite spending four years reporting on (and occasionally participating in) Frederick County's planes, trains, and automobiles, I never became truly immersed in public transportation until I actually left Maryland.
I'd sold my precious car — my safety from physical and emotional storms, and my favorite place to blare Barry Manilow and Steve Winwood on a breezy summer's day — to the News-Post's own Patti Borda. For the first time in five years, I was without a personal mode of transport. I couldn't just swing by Wawa for a meatball sub or take a drive to Barnes & Noble for an afternoon among the books.
Suddenly, my livelihood depended solely on an MTA MetroCard and my own two feet. I started out slowly, either walking or catching the M23 bus to and from the only place I knew in the city: the PCMag office.
All the while, the big, bad subway station was always lying in wait, ready to eat me and my naïveté alive. I'd braved the Washington, D.C. Metro stations before — with the hustle and angry bustle of people just trying to get to their destination without tourists confusingly standing in their way. But D.C. is New York City Lite. The air conditioned stations, the semi-on-time trains, the general cleanliness and lack of homeless people sleeping in the corner. How could I ever face the New York subway system alone?
It took at least a month, and a very inactive Saturday with hours of buffer time, to build up the courage to venture underground. I dove right in — a 30-minute train ride to Brooklyn, and back again (sandwiching an afternoon of shopping at Target). If memory (and my daily habits) serves, I excitedly called my parents on the walk back home from the subway station to share my grown-up-ness.
Since then, subway has become more than a delicious sandwich shop — it's my main mode of transportation (with the occasional taxi ride from the west side where train stations are scarce and cabbies are bitter).
In the 11 months that I've been sub-terrestrially exploring the city, I've figured out a few things about the system. Things which are essential to humankind, and my sanity.
So I present to you, Stephanie's Statutes: The top 10 rules for riding the New York City subway:
– You do not need to hold your significant other's hand from platform to platform.
– Do not read and walk (a book, a magazine, your cell phone, etc.). **
– If you're lost, MOVE OUT OF THE FLOW OF ONCOMING TRAFFIC. **
– Do. Not. Stop. At. The. Top/Bottom. Of. The. Station. Stairs. I repeat: Get the heck out of the way of people running to their trains.
– Please leave the child stroller at home...
– ... And when you do, don't let your toddler try to walk up the stairs on their own. Just pick them up already.
– When carrying shopping bags/luggage, do not sit on it in the train car, especially not directly in front of the opening doors.
– At least three people can fit on a train car bench between poles. Don't fill that space with your bag.
– Do not continuously lean into the track to check for an incoming train. When it arrives, you'll know. You just look foolish.
– If you have not showered or applied underarm deodorant for at least two days, do not raise your arms to hold onto the subway car railings. Find a nearby person to grab or just take a wide gait and plant your feet REALLY well.
Oh, and keep in mind — If you see a rat crawling through a crowded train car, don't yell "It's got rabies!" as people scream, hop up and down, and climb onto the seats. (I speak from experience.)
Happy riding, and please, stand away from the platform edge.
** Also perfectly suitable life lessons for navigating the mean streets of the Big Apple.
Stephanie Mlot writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.