Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Rush Hour in the Subway

What is it about rush hour in the NYC subways that makes your average Joe morph into an obnoxious human being? Everyone has to do it, most people twice a day. The trains are crowded. These are the facts of life, but if people just treated each other with a little consideration instead of totally freaking out, things would go much more smoothly.

You've got your average suspects:

-The Unpredictable: This is the person who gets all deer in the headlights when going through the turnstiles or making any move. They will pause, look around fearfully, then dart out in front of you suddenly at the moment you least expect it, totally cutting you off and blocking your path. This often occurs just before you get on the train, making you miss your chance at being to work on time.

-The "Good Samaritan": This guy is the one who is pushing everyone and trying to cram himself onto an already full train, and yells, in a nice tone, could you all just move in please? He acts like he's doing everyone on the platform a big favor by speaking up and asking for more room. Well, sir. I'm pretty sure if we could move in, we would to avoid being sandwiched in like sardines. You're the problem. Step out and wait for the next train please.

-The Stinker: This person will not be afraid to reach for the overhead bars and expose their smelly smelly armpits. Often they will be unshaven, or excessively hairy. They make you wonder just how someone can sweat so much so early in the morning.

-The Door blockers: These characters just don't seem to understand that if you turn sideways people still cannot get by you to enter and leave the subway. Yes, you may be taking up less space than when you stand facing out, but you are still in the way. The whole notion of moving to the center of the train to make more space for people entering and exiting is completely over their head. Instead they would rather just clog up the path for those of us who grasp how to use space efficiently.

During this special time of day, people seem to forget people are people, and instead anyone just becomes an object standing in the way of them getting home. Why, you might wonder, as I have many times before. Well, I have an answer for you. I studied Sociology, and as such I tend to observe groups of people and wonder why they act the way they do. Here are my thoughts on the subject. The rush hour phenomenon, it all comes down to collective behavior, more commonly referred to as pack mentality. Can't you just see it now? A senior thesis entitled Pack Mentality and Rush Hour in NYC's subways?

The earliest theory of crowd behavior is associated with G. Le Bon, who said that in periods of social decline and disintegration, society becomes ruled by the law of the crowd--think looting during blackouts, and how rapes and murders tend to increase in frequency in the lawless periods following natural disasters. People follow the behaviors of other to establish who is in power, and who is the subordinate.

 In the case of the subway, when groups of people are all engaging in the same action, the individual consciousness becomes subordinate to the collective mentality which radically transforms individual behavior. In other words, when a couple people start to rush the train to squeeze in, people lose their typical conscientiousness for the comfort of others and become obsessed with their need to be on the train too. Everything else falls to the wayside except the crowd's behavior. You can witness this same phenomenon crossing the street. A couple people jaywalk because there's no traffic coming. Then suddenly there's a crowd in the crosswalk despite the fact that the signal says don't walk, and there's oncoming traffic. Like a herd of cattle, everyone is just going with the pack. Next time you're on the subway, try standing alone, being courteous, waiting for the next subway. It would be interesting to see what happens if the pack mentality becomes one of friendliness and concern for others.

1 comment:

Mimi said...

this made me chuckle! i can totally imagine the different people you described! ;)

<3, Mimi


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