1. Walk behind a local.
When you see a local, you’ll know it. These people are experts at weaving and bobbing their way through crowds. If you walk behind one during rush hour, they’ll clear a path through the stampede. This will make things a whole lot easier – especially if they’re bigger than you.
2. Find your subway legs.
Keep your joints loose and balance like you’re on a surfboard. Trains in NY twist and turn, so avoid embarrassing falls by bending your knees, elbows and stand on the balls of your feet. Leaning your entire body weight on one hip, crossing your legs, or stiff arms are recipes for disaster. This is especially important for those traveling in heels.
3. Keep up with the speed of foot traffic.
Everyone is in a hurry and the only way to avoid causing a foot traffic pile up is to move with the ebb and flow, even if it means walking at an uncomfortable pace. This is most important during rush hour. People will scoff, bump into you, and even yell. The constant, smooth flow of traffic is the only thing keeping this city going. It’s a universal, unspoken rule of etiquette. When someone bumps into you for being too slow, it’s because you are the one being rude.
4. The most spacious part of the subway car is… the middle.
Don’t want to be crammed in like a sardine? Move to the middle of the subway car, furthest from the doors. Here, people tend to line up in rows instead of cluster. People cluster for easy entry/exit, which can make your ride uncomfortable. You may be awkwardly leaning over someone but it’s a lot better than having your ribs crushed.
5. If a subway car is empty, there’s a reason.
Once I hopped on an almost-empty subway car and was hit in the face with the most gruesome smell. No one could tell where it was coming from but we knew it was stronger on one end of the car than the other. The few people on the train, myself included, shuffled upwind and plastered our shirts to our faces until we reached the next stop then switched cars. Only a couple people were in this car during rush hour. I should’ve seen the signs.
6. The difference between suffocation and snagging seat is 2 minutes.
Sometimes trains will slow down due to traffic and people will crowd the platform. Everyone is in such a hurry they just have to take the first train that comes along, even if it’s packed to the max. To avoid this, wait the extra few minutes for the next train to arrive. It’s usually far less crowded and you won’t have to forcibly wedge yourself into the car.