Muni Manners


There was a young guy on the subway today with long hair that was obviously meticulously brushed forward to achieve a messy look. I wanted to slap him until it was neat. This isn’t really fair of me, I know. He was really just minding his own business — well, he was spending an inordinate amount of time minding his hair, actually. But his stupid hair probably doesn’t really show what kind of a man he is inside. (Unless he’s completely stuffed with hair, of course.) I imagined a crisis taking place and him proving his mettle by unexpectedly being the first to spring into action, and after that, I felt better disposed toward him. There clearly are more deserving people to hate on the subway than this fine young hero.

Take the guy who was just in front of me as I boarded at Yonge and Bloor, one of the TTC’s busiest stations. As soon as he boarded the train, he simply stopped dead immediately inside the doorway, oblivious to the fact that everyone behind him consequently had to carefully pick their way around him. As he leaned against the doorway, lost in his thoughtlessness, I was tempted to wait until I heard the chime of the doors closing and then blindside him from behind with a hard crosscheck, knocking him sprawling back out on the platform as the doors closed and the train pulled away, with me waving goodbye from the window. This is not a hero. If there were a crisis, he wouldn’t spring into action. He’d remain in his own little bubble of solipsism.

So would the guy I saw the other day, who was sitting in the middle of an otherwise empty three-seat transverse bench as a mother and daughter boarded. He looked up at them, but made no effort to move to one side or the other to allow them to sit together. After a pause, they sat down on either side of him and gamely tried to hold a conversation over him as he nodded back into his stupid reverie, and they switched seats as soon as two adjacent seats opened up. I was hard-pressed not to rouse him by bouncing his head off the wall behind him several times.

Of course, brutally assaulting my fellow passengers would probably be a worse breach of transit etiquette than whatever discourteous acts (or hairstyles) I’d be punishing. As you may know, I take transit etiquette very seriously. Too few people seem to these days, exhibiting a blend of rudeness and ignorance that make our daily travel a travail. So it is with great delight that I discovered the likeminded San Franciscans at Muni Manners, who have dedicated themselves to the Sisyphean task of improving the manners of their fellow travellers. While the site may be inspired by the particular transit frustrations of their hometown, their lessons are universal, and for that, I salute them.

P.S. The same day I saw that third guy, I also saw a tubby bearded guy go walking by outside the stopped subway car in full musketeer regalia — high boots, cape, long-feathered hat. And a big longsword. I was actually on my way back from fencing practice, and if I hadn’t been too busy gawking at him as he suppressed a smirk and the rest of the subway car studiously ignored him, I might have thought to pull a foil out of my bag and brandish it at him from the open doorway, challenging him to a duel. No way could he have passed that up. We’d have parried and lunged up and down the subway platform until transit constables arrived, whereupon we’d have immediately teamed up against our common foe, our naked steel against their collapsible batons and pepper spray.

5 Responses to “Muni Manners”

  1. 1 Marlene

    Seeing how I’m completely useless when it comes to confronting people and excellent at secretly brooding, I could possibly use you on my way to work in the mornings. A lot of people are decent about a mom with a stroller on my bus, but every once in a while a jack-ass or two will piss me off. Quite often there is a young woman and her friend either smoking cigarettes in the bus shelter or standing outside it spitting on the sidewalk every few minutes. I just give them a dirty look and imagine all the eloquent things I’d say to them that would put them in their place. Of course, Scott is a lot closer and he’s also good at pointing out to people how they suck (in a nice way that doesn’t make anyone mad).

  2. 2 Gloria

    I saw the same guy! It was on the corner across from Jilly’s.

  3. 3 Eric

    That would be pretty awesome to see: Peter Lynn, and a musketeer who sounds like he’s rather Peter Lynn vs. a horde of subway constables!

  4. 4 Elizabeth

    Judging by what James and I saw in three days involving San Francisco transit travel earlier this year, the Muni Manners site is direly needed. We saw:

    -guy making discernible racist comments about another passenger
    -ex-pat Scot guitarist wearing a fuzzy green top hat and drinking Guinness out of a paper bag
    -guy announcing his enjoyment of scratching his balls
    -seedy looking, flirtatious hooker drinking whiskey from a bottle in her purse
    -girl blowing her nose raucously, examining the tissue and flinging it on the floor, not far from our feet

  5. 5 Elizabeth

    Notwithstanding Peter’s observations, Torontonian transit riders can also be ridiculously polite.

    A few months ago on a streetcar, the guy sitting next to me apologized for needing to get off at the next stop, requiring me to get up as well to let him pass. “That’s OK, ” I said. “Thank you,” he said. “You’re welcome,” I replied.

    This exchange actually made me feel embarrassingly stereotypical as a terminally polite Canadian.

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