Just Sherring

The Best Seat


There’s a heated debate on social media about the best seat on the New York subway. Well, I’ve lived here for 10 years and some change. I’m still a Bostonian at heart, but the New York rent and state taxes I pay give me the right to weigh in. Apparently, a cousin of mine also thinks the same because she DM’d me The Shade Room post asking for my take.

When riding the MTA, my favorite seat is #4. I’ve always liked window seats on planes, trains and automobiles. Let’s not forget busses. Cue Erykah Badu’s “Window Seat.”

Window Seat
Don’t want nobody next to me
I just want a chance to fly
A chance to cry
And a long bye bye

For the record, yes, I’ve cried while seated in window seat of a car, bus, train, and plane. Besides not being squished between two people, another pro of a window seat anywhere is that you can pretend to be angling your body to stare outside, meanwhile you’re masking your breakdown.

#5 is the (second) best because you can sit sideways, meaning you can turn your back to your seatmate and not be forced to sit shoulder-to-shoulder. This is only possible when the train is not full. In that case you’re just being a total dickhead. The extra space you’re taking up could be used by another person who has to stand. If you are seated frontwards in this seat, like #4 you won’t have a crotch in your face. Very important.

I hate #1 because it’s by the door. Not only do you have the whooshing of cold or warm air (depending on the season) every time the doors part, but you have to deal with the sound of when they can’t close either because of technical issues or someone is holding them. Headphones or not, this is annoying. Also, people tend to lean against the small dividing railing. If it’s with their back to me, their butt or filthy bag is in close to proximity to the side of my face. Lastly, this seat is prime positioning for getting stepped on, hit with a stroller, or forfeiting the seat to a pregnant woman, elderly person, someone with a lot of bags, or with crutches.

Sidebar: I am disgusted and disappointed by the amount of times I’ve given up my seat, while able-bodied men remain seated. Equality, rah rah rah and all that, but dammit men! If chivalry isn’t dead it for damn sure is in a coma on life support.

#2 Sucks. Capital S. It makes the rider Bitch in the Middle. Nobody likes that seat no matter the mode of transportation. When I enter a train after a long day or I know I’m in a for a long ride and see that this is the only available seat, I have to give it careful consideration if it’s worth being scrunched up between two strangers. I have no idea their hygienic situation. I can only hold my breath for so long, and even though I’m well within my rights, I feel sometimes feel rude when I leave a seat for another. I don’t know if people are battling a cold or flu. It’s mind-boggling how many grown folks don’t cover their mouths when coughing and sneezing. It’s the reason I added echinacea as one of my daily supplements.

It’s awkward lowering myself into the middle seat. With only a few seconds before the doors close and the train jerks into motion, I need to be seated with my bag(s) in my lap and book already in hand, otherwise I run the risk of elbowing my seatmate in the ribs as I ruffle in my deep bag for it. If caught off-balance, I might tumble into the person’s lap (true story) or hit them with my bag (also true). New Yorkers are a confusing bunch. You never know if someone will cuss you out in 2.5 seconds even though you clearly didn’t mean whatever infraction occurred or you’ll get someone with an understanding personality. Either way, embarrassment ensues because the sardine-packed passengers were all witnesses. The only pro of this this seat is that when you have people on both sides, it makes you have the best posture. You sit as straight and as still as possible so as not to disturb your neighbors. Unfortunately, your neighbors may not give a damn about being polite or your comfort. I’ve been used as a personal arm rest several times.

#3 Eh. The legs of the person in #4 and #5 tend to brush against you if they’re tall. If not their legs, then their bags. Not only that, you have two people, inches away, who are staring directly into the side of your face if they’re not reading or facing their front. Not the most comfortable situation. This seat is also a crotch-in-your-face seat.

When I ride alone, I most definitely aim to sit in seat #4 so that I can have the window seat and be out of the way. I don’t have to worry about bags—or worse, crotch in my face. 99% of the time I’m reading whether I’m standing or sitting, but with the swaying of the train, a standee may stray into my personal space, especially when leaning forward to allow people to exit or enter. In colder temps, it’s not unusual for the bottom of a person’s coat to float over the top of the page I’m reading.

My cousin was surprised. “LOL Wow a serious debate.” Yes, riding the NYC subway train is an extreme game of musical chairs. Trains are crowded at all times of the day, even 2 am. Sometimes the reason is obvious. People dressed in their favorite sports team colors or gear: a game. Sometimes I’m part of the crowd heading to or from Madison Square Garden for a concert or comedy show. I learned the hard way that if I see a subway car with a solo rider or everyone huddled to one side while he’s chilling with a lots of prime real estate to himself, walk a few steps to another car. On the rare occasion when I get subway car to myself, I take a picture. In those instances I’m actually a little scared because if something were to happen to me there would be no one to intervene or witness. Morbid, yes, but ‘tis the truth.

No matter the seat, one is never shielded from the acrobatic dancers, singers, musicians, panhandlers and other subway happenings. There’s never a dull moment on the train, starting with seat selection.


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