Packing a subway car

The morning commute often leaves me amazed. Somehow, when it seems like there is absolutely no room left for just one additional person in that subway car, we manage to stop and pick up 15 more. Each stop means a slight adjustment for all riders. And somehow we manage. Most of the time this is done peacefully and subconsciously and you end up not having to touch a single stranger. Occasionally my backpack will rub up against someone’s purse or my arm will glance by another person’s arm. But for the most part, you are confined to your own personal space and it works.

This behavior exists with cars too. If you ever stop to think about it, traffic jams are an interesting study in human engineering. Thousands of large, unwieldy jalopies, mere inches away from each other, and only a small percentage of them ever come in contact. Somehow it just works. We follow the rules which say, “Don’t bump into other cars” and it just happens.

Sometimes however, people just can’t figure it out. My commute home last night was one of these times. The car wasn’t even packed. But the way we were all aligned, meant I was bumping into every single person adjacent to me. Of course, I forgive myself of all blame because I know how to act in a subway car. In fact, it could have been just one person throwing a giant human-sized wrench in the works that threw everything into disarray. All I know is that the slightest tilt to one side of the track meant I was bumping into someone. I tried and tried to find my pocket. To find a little personal space that I could call my own. I even brought my backpack around and carried it like a newborn, just to help everyone out. This didn’t do much. I couldn’t get out of this predicament. I can’t tell you how happy I was when those doors opened at Grand st. The relief is brings…

Sometimes folks, the mob simply can’t work it out.

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