If there’s one thing that you can say about New Yorkers, it’s that they have a very real sense of purpose. Once they’ve set their minds on something, there’s nothing that can ever get in the way of them ultimately achieving it. Well, apart from their failed bid for the 2012 Olympics, that is.
This single-mindedness and determination to get what they want (regardless of what anybody else thinks) plays out everywhere in the city. Whether it’s restaurant customers ordering their salad dressing be made in a particular way (despite what the chef recommends on the menu) or taxi drivers taking ridiculously convoluted ‘short cuts’ in an attempt to cut through rush hour traffic, nobody gets in the way of a New Yorker.
And no more so than on the subway. As I’ve already mentioned, all standards of commonly acceptable behaviour are suspended as soon as you swipe your Metro card through the turnstile. From then on in, it’s an every-man-for-himself free-for-all, with only the fittest surviving to make it to their eventual destination.
There are a number of people you have to watch out for on the New York subway, if you value your safety. No doubt everyone has come across Last Minute Lunger, the passenger who waits on the platform until everybody has packed themselves sardine-like into the rush hour carriage, before making his powerful leap into a non-existent space inside the car milliseconds before the doors shut.
Then there’s Enormo-Bag Man, who requires at least one whole doorway of space for his luggage, presumably because he’s on a three month trip to Peru and can’t leave the city without enough matzo ball soup to keep him going throughout his whole time away. One such guy in a fake fur coat made his way on to a train on which I was travelling earlier this week, forcing approximately thirty seven people to seek alternative accommodation for their feet. Turns out he had industrial quantities of fake perfume in his suitcases, which he began hawking round to people he’d skittled over a few minutes earlier. Possibly not the best set-up ever to a sales pitch.
And of course, above all others, there’s the Subway Barger. The Subway Barger gets on at one end of a crowded train, and decides that he (or she, for the Subway Barger is just as often a woman) has got on at completely the wrong end, and needs to make his way down to the carriage furthest away.
From the speed that the Subway Barger travels, I can only assume that there is some kind of explosive device in his or her bag, and that it can only be neutralised by making it to the subway car at the opposite end of the train within a ninety second period. As a result, anybody who doesn’t see the imminent approach of this Carl Lewis of the subterranean transportation world gets suddenly flung out of the way with incredible force – often with the killer bag being used as an impromptu space-creating instrument.
From carriage to carriage, the Subway Barger sees no obstacle too tall or fat that it can’t be rammed out of their path with the use of a stray elbow or a menacing grunt. Sadly, he is also impervious to the death stare – a killer look which has been known to turn
queueline jumpers into stone and make small children cry. Despite the incredible efforts of scientists around the world, there is currently no known way to stop the most determined Subway Barger.
But there will be. Trust me, there will be.