Subway Bingo: A NYC Musing

(I have been in NYC for several days now and have several observations that I feel the need to share with the world. As a sidebar, I have possibly decided to write a novel this week, so this could be some prime novel material.)

There is something so uncomfortable yet so quintessentially “New York” about being on the subway. It has the same feeling you get when you shake a can of soda. The can feels like at any second it will explode, but it doesn’t. It just stays in this isometric tension until the train enters the station and everyone explodes off. Because I’m not one of those people who hates being on the subway, I decided to utilize this time and take note of the people around me. This led to the discovery of a few wonderful archetypes of subway passenger. I recommend you keep a keen eye out for these people… perhaps play along with your friends.

1… The overly dressed woman reading the fine arts section of the Times. She just has a look about her that screams “I am better than you.” She probably uses words like axiomatic, au courant, torpor, or soporific. The honest truth is, her being on the subway is already a miracle. She probably takes taxis everywhere anyway.

2… The girl dressed in Coach, Prada, and wearing Louboutin pumps. She is now realizing that wearing her skin-tight designer clothes and mile-high shoes was probably not the wisest choice for her 40-minute commute on the A train. Because she is certain everyone on the train is staring at her she is constantly scooting around in her seat or pulling at her clothing.

3… There is always someone on the train with a scratch-off card. If you are lucky enough to see them in the act of scratching it you are in for a real treat. There is this fascinating blend of anticipation, hopefulness, and habit-fueled resignation into failure. Better luck next time.

4… The guy in all black who is reading Tolstoy at 2:15 in the afternoon. Oh look! He also has some sort of edgy piercing or trendy tattoo (you get bonus points if it is written in one of the Lord of the Rings fonts). Everything about his demeanor says he is too busy thinking about lofty topics and existential dilemmas.

5… That one person who has 30 different bags. But this is not just an ordinary bag lady. This is the person who thought that mid-day on a Tuesday was the best time to try to move all of their material possessions from apartment to apartment via subway. you couldn’t have paid for a cab? Or you don’t know any friends with cars?

6… If you’re lucky you will encounter a tourist, or just a newbie to the city, who will go the completely wrong direction. We’ve all done it. We’ve all attempted to go to Washington Heights and ended up in Brooklyn. When it is you who does it, you play it off cool. But when someone else does it you can’t help but chuckle under your breath.

7… There will always be someone on the subway who has a piece of jewelry or a piece of clothing that just makes you question everything you know and love. It might just be a neon blazer, a large church hat, or my experience this week, a softball size resin necklace with a spider encased inside. This is the kind of jewelry that is intended to make that person look interesting and quirky. But rather than looking like Zooey Deschanel on New Girl, you look like something out of a weird discotheque in Amsterdam.

8… The woman who decides that her brief, 10-minute ride on the 1 is time enough to organize her purse. In order to “accomplish” this task (which is an impossible task) she has to try to balance everything in her lap while squeezed between two other people. Before long she has a stack of receipts resembling a game of Jenga. All the people around her can do is hope and pray that stuff doesn’t fall.


… A girl pulling out her newly purchased weave tracks and putting up against her head to see if she likes the color. This is not intended to have a punchline. It actually happened to me. That is all.

… Tour group of high school students who are all wearing backpacks and somehow forget that backpacks protrude off your spine. This results in them hitting everyone around them… and I mean everyone.

… Person with a bike. I would include strollers in this category but I don’t want to come across as one of those New York artists who hates all things family related.

… The person who falls asleep, dozes off, or in general don’t understand the concept of personal space. This results in them being all up in your personal bubble. You definitely get bonus points if their head ends up on your shoulder.

… A drag queen. The more out of drag, the more points you get. If they are in their sequined gown and a lace front it isn’t all that impressive (and honestly not all that out of the norm). But if you can find someone with a face full of Ben Nye makeup but dressed like a mannequin from the men’s section of Forever 21 you have a winner on your hands.

Note: If a drag queen is not available you may substitute in a heavily pierced punk rocker or a full-blown Rastafarian.