The experience of using the subway system these days is one of abrupt stops, overcrowding and unnecessary delays. And no, we’re not talking about the highly publicized, slowly declining performance of the city’s trains. The subterranean world of confounding commuting truly begins at the gates of efficiency hell: the subway stairwell. Abandon hope of being on time, all ye who enter here. Your journey into the heart of tardiness has begun.
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As millions of pedestrians course through New York’s streets every day, they form an iced-coffee-drinking river of constant movement. Unfortunately, that movement encounters a number of dams known as subway stairwells. At these pressure points, its flow is slowed to an aching halt by people who suddenly decide at that very moment, inside the tiniest of corridors full of rushing people, that they really have to check their goddamned phones.
Imagine a midtown office employee out to get lunch. As the worker bee crosses 42nd Street to pick up a tiny cup of fruit from Pret a Manger, he suddenly stops halfway across the street, pauses for a second and thinks, You know, I should probably check my Twitter feed to see if there are any more hot takes on last night’s Game of Thrones episode. Then, as a wall of frustrated drivers blare their horns, the human obstacle slowly reaches into his backpack, pulls out his phone and searches for service.
No, honey. You don’t get to do that.
Just as any sane person would wait to cross to the other side of the street before whipping out their Samsung rather than stand in the way of traffic, subway riders should just wait until they reach the outside world. Not only will you be doing a service for your fellow commuters, but your phone will probably have better service as well.