In which I have a breakthrough in music-without-headphones-in-public etiquette

Put those headphones on!

You guys. I figured it out. Last night on the bus a woman sat in front of me and was trying to listen to a audio of Fun Home on her phone, without headphones. For the record, I’d estimate she was in her 40s or 50s, so shut up about millennials. She held the phone’s speaker directly to hear ear, but everyone within about 15 feet could hear the audio.

A younger man leaned across the bus aisle and asked if the audio was coming from her, and when she confirmed, he asked her to shut it off. She did, but rolled her eyes, and gestured to my husband and I that that man must be the unreasonable one. “I can’t believe him,” she said. “Well,” I said, “generally you should be using headphones for that.” She responded “If I have to hold it up to my ear I don’t think anyone else can hear it.”


I sort of refused to make eye contact for the next two stops as she continued to grumble, but my mind was racing. This is the problem! I sort of understand it. I’m extremely guilty of eating/crying/picking dead skin off my lips on the subway, assuming no one outside of my personal bubble is aware of my actions. It’s easy (maybe) to see how that attitude can extend to noise. So let us make it perfectly clear in case you were operating under this assumption: everyone can hear you, cut it out.

Advanced Public Transportation Etiquette

Warriors_still_NYC_subway.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-largeBy now, I hope all our readers are good with the basic rules of public transportation etiquette. Don’t take up too much room, don’t whack people with your bags, let other people out before you get on, stand up for the sick/elderly/pregnant, move toward the center of the car, etc. I bet you’re all out there taking your subways and buses and trolleys with the best manners. However, I’ve been riding the subway since I can remember, and have seen a number of pretty outlandish things. Here are some that I’ve noticed that I hope you remember not to partake in as well.

  • Don’t sit down and put your feet on a nearby pole, ESPECIALLY if you’re barefoot.
  • Don’t sit on the floor.
  • Don’t set up a baby’s pack-and-play on the floor.
  • Don’t change a diaper on the subway seat.
  • Don’t watch movies on your iPad at full volume with no headphones.
  • Invest in good headphones so I don’t hear your music four seats away.
  • Do not apply hairspray on the subway.
  • Do not apply Victoria’s Secret body spray on the subway.
  • In general don’t wear so much perfume. Some people have bad allergic reactions or are just really sensitive to smell, and when you’re stuck underground in a metal tube next to somebody who has sprayed down every inch of their body it’s just really unpleasant.
  • Go ahead and eat, within reason. If it requires utensils/is hot and smelly, do not eat it, but I’m not one of those people who insists that you cannot bring food on public transportation. Lots of people are busy and work a lot and the bus might be their only chance to eat. Sandwiches, bagels, chips, granola bars, basically anything that can be eaten with one hand and doesn’t smell a lot is good to me.
  • Don’t smoke cigarettes.
  • Don’t smoke pot.
  • Don’t vape.
  • Don’t do coke.
  • Like really we can all tell when you’re trying to do drugs in public and nobody is impressed.
  • Don’t be that drunk person who is running barefoot up and down the car and scream-singing to Katy Perry.
  • Just don’t be barefoot, and please explain to me all these people who decide taking their shoes off on the train is a good idea.
  • Take your trash with you.