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11 must-haves to make your subway commute a little less awful

Annalise Mantz

Think you’ve been through hell? You haven’t until you’ve squished yourself into a crowded subway car at 7am only to discover there’s a god-awful smell and the A.C. isn’t working.

Just the thought of that dreaded train delay announcement is enough to give any New Yorker anxiety. And since even the MTA admits service has been getting worse, it’s probably time to get used to the jam-packed cars, delays and breakdowns. There is something you can do to make your time as a straphanger slightly more pleasant, though: Arm yourself with these must-haves for subway commuters. With these useful supplies in hand and a few subway hacks up your sleeve, there’s nothing you can’t handle.

For swiping in quickly and efficiently
No more rummaging through your bag to find your MetroCard. Keep it handy in a clear plastic case—your fellow commuters will thank you for getting through the turnstile without blocking the flow of traffic.

For getting rid of all that bacteria
Think planes are gross? Think again: The New York subway is 900 times dirtier than an airplane tray table. Stash a few individually wrapped hand wipes in your bag to remove any germs you might have picked up during the ride.

For your dying phone battery
Charge any smartphone quickly on-the-go with a portable charger no larger than a tube of lipstick. It’s especially handy for those days you drain your battery trying to check the delays on the feeble underground service.

For holding onto the grimy poles
Sit next to the woman plucking her eyebrows or grab onto the handrail still slick from someone else’s sweaty palms? It’s a choice with no clear winner. Slip on these lightweight gloves in the fall, winter and spring when you get on the train so you won’t have to worry about who’s touched what.

For blocking out the sounds of “it’s showtime!”
Whether you’re listening to a podcast, Spotify or nothing at all, noise-cancelling headphones are essential. They not only block out the screeching brakes and off-key singing from subway performers, but also give off that “please don’t talk to me” vibe.

For pretending you can’t hear the creepy guy next to you
See above.

For lugging your laptop, gym shoes and groceries all at once
You can carry this super durable Baggu tote by the handle, over your shoulder or across your body, depending on how crowded the train is. Plus, the stylish design keeps you from looking like a bag lady.

For those times the air conditioning breaks
Carry an insulated water bottle so you always have a sip of ice cold water at the ready. This one has an extra secure lid so it won’t leak all over your laptop bag, either.

For unfortunate-smelling subway cars
All New Yorkers have heard the warnings about empty subway cars. Still, one day, it will happen to you: a surprise attack of the worst smell you could ever possibly imagine. Spray a little aromatherapy mist between your hands, then take a deep breath of the lavender scent and pray to the MTA gods to get the train to the next station quickly.

For extra-long commutes
Just buy an e-reader already, people. You’ll be happy to have a portable library when the train stops between stations.

For general subway-induced anxiety
Being stuck underground with no cell service might sound like a nightmare, but it’s actually the perfect excuse to unplug for a few minutes. Ease into it with a guided meditation app like Headspace. You can download the sessions to your phone and play them anytime, anywhere. Or, if you’d rather read, buy the book!

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