Archive for March, 2011

Saucy Doings on the Subway

March 26, 2011

Get your mind out of the gutter, you naughty readers, you! This post is *not* about what you probably assumed it was about from my title.
I did that on purpose, see? I knew you couldn’t stop yourself from reading on after you’d seen the title. Now I’ve hooked you! *evil crone-like laughter*
Yes, today we are indeed talking about the subway; the world-renowned and reviled New York City subway, to be exact. But the saucy doings under discussion today involve that sauciest of activities: the eating of spaghetti on that subway.
A little background: Most American subway systems have rules prohibiting the consumption of food on the trains and platforms. NYC’s subway system has no such rules. People routinely munch while they ride. And not just sandwiches or candy, either.
Earlier this week, a video surfaced on YouTube that showed a woman on the New York subway slurping up spaghetti from a take-out container. Another woman chastises her for it, the spaghetti-eater responds with something predictably unprintable, and the situation degenerates from there into a physical brawl. There is some question as to the authenticity of the video, but even if it was staged, it does bring up a valid question: should eating be banned on subways?
I realize that people commuting from, and especially to, work are in a hurry and may very well not otherwise have the time to eat, that the bagel they eat on the train may be the only way they’d be able to get any breakfast at all.
But spaghetti? Really? There are also reports of passengers eating chili, loaded hot dogs, and even barbecued chicken. That, I think, is carrying things a bit too far.
If everybody who ever gets onto a subway could be counted on to be neat and tidy, and to pick up and pack out their garbage, I would say that things in the NYC subway should stay as they are, and anybody who criticizes another passenger for neatly enjoying a bite or two needs to get some business of their own to mind.
But subway riders are no different than any other large group of people. Always, there will be slobs. People who honestly believe that there is a passel of invisible janitors following behind them to pick up their trash and wipe up their messes. (These are the same people who drop chewing gum on the sidewalks, fail to clean off their food-court tables at the mall, and “forget” to flush the public toilet.)
And then of course there are simply people who have accidents. Their soda can gets jostled and erupts like Old Faithful when opened. Their cheeseburger is a bit too heavy on the toppings and doesn’t want to hold it all in. The train makes a sudden bounce or a fellow traveller bumps an elbow, and whaddaya know? there’s French fries underfoot and shreds of coleslaw sliding down into impossible places.
The Spaghetti Fight video is not the only subway-themed video out there. More than one wannabe muckraker has filmed NYC’s infamous subway rats for posterity. These are not your typical skulking, timid rodents who try their best not to be spotted. No, these fellas are just as bold as brass. They’ve even been filmed crawling up the leg of a sleeping (probably not for long) subway rider.
There are reasons why rats like the subway: there’s plenty of dark hidey-holes to pop into, lots of room to explore, and there’s food. Food spilled, dropped or discarded by subway riders.
And there’s roaches. Roaches have been known to colonize public transportation of all kinds, and to hitch rides in luggage or purses or clothing, rides that ultimately take them into homes. Yuck!
So, much as I sympathize with the busy commuter who has just bought a lovely fresh muffin at the train station and who would be unable to have time for breakfast and still catch his train, I have to say I think it’s time the NYC subway joined its counterparts and became a no-munch zone. I’d like to say they should just ban the eating of messy foods, but I know that would never work. Too many arguments about just exactly what constitutes messiness. (A muffin is small and easily held in the hand, but it also sheds crumbs like dandruff.)
So I’m forced to fall back on the line teachers often used when explaining why the entire class had to stay in for recess after four students had been making trouble: “You see how a few thoughtless people can ruin things for everybody.”
All aboard! Hey, put that cheesesteak away! And don’t think you’re bringing that drippy double-decker ice cream cone on here!