On my way to work this morning, the Red Line T stop at Central Square (where I board every morning) was extremely crowded. I had come in just as a packed train was leaving, and dozens of commuters had stayed on the platform because they were unable to get on the train.
When the next train did arrive, it was one of those usual free for alls when people had no regard for etiquette and basically push and shove, cut you off and push you down so they can get in the train (and everyone does this, even old women.) What is striking about this is that while this behavior is very rude and discomforting, its entirely rational. That is because you need to get to work, and if you don't get on that train you will be late. I have been in situations where the train was just so goddamn crowded I literally could not fit in, and have been late to work for it. So when you see an opening you just kind of go for it and hope you don't fall down in the process.
It made me wonder, are there any rules pertaining to traveling around on the T? I think there are some unspoken rules of the road that decent people go by, and others need to learn:
1. Give Up Your Seat: If there is an old person or pregnant lady, give up your seat for them. Incidentally I see this happen very frequently, and its not one type of person that gives up their seat for an old person/prego lady but people of all stripes. Sometimes assholes don't do it, but usually someone will volunteer, and it is always nice to see.
2. Who Gets the Open Seat: While I don't think its necessary to give up your seat for a woman (who is young and perfectly healthy), when a seat opens on a crowded train, she should get first dibs. I see people do this a lot too, they kind of motion toward the seat, and the woman either says "Oh no thank you I am getting off at the next stop", or "Are you sure? Oh, thank you!"
3. Move Your Shit: If there is a crowded train and you have a seat next to you, and your back pack is on it, don't wait for someone to ask you to move it. Either put it on the floor, or if you think that the floor is too dirty (which it is) then put it on your lap. And sticking head phones in your ears doesn't mean you can't see that people are standing and would like that seat.
4. Move In or Stand Up: This pertains to the Green Line trains, where the seats are arranged in pairs of two perpendicular to the wall (like a bus or airplane), as opposed to lined along side the wall on most other trains. If the train is empty, you can take the aisle or the window seat. If the train is crowded, or a big crowd is coming on because you are at Park Street or some other busy stop, and you are already sitting in the aisle seat, then move in. Its obnoxious when someone says "Excuse me" or "May I sit there" and the person in the aisle seat just brings their legs in so you can step over them to get to the window seat; rather than just moving in. There is no need for you to sit in the aisle seat; if you are the next stop then just stand up and wait. If you aren't, then move in.
5. Big Backpack Bumper: If you have a huge back pack that sticks out three feet, fine, we have all been there. But the rule is, on a crowded train, once you get into the spot where you are standing, then stand still dammit! Don't move around, turning left and right or all around, because you wind up hitting people with your back pack and you may not even be able to feel it.
6. Move Over: If there are several empty seats and you have positioned yourself in one such that I have to either sit right next to you, or right next to someone else, whereas if you moved over one then I could be in between two empty seats, then you should move over. These seats are small and nobody likes to sit directly next to someone.
7. Turn Down Your Music: Its an ipod and I can hear it blasting. You will go deaf, but in the meantime I don't want to listen to your crap songs.
8. Shut the Fuck Up: A. If its a crowded train, don't speak on your phone, its rude and annoying, B. Talk in a normal voice and don't scream swears; you aren't the only person on the train. Loud, obnoxious people that scream and swear, or laugh, are annoying.
9. This Is Not a Bathroom: So don't clip your fingers or toes, don't clean your ears, and for the love of God please don't spit phlegm on the floor.
10. Relax: We are all on the same T, people will be rude or obnoxious and not everyone will know subway rules. Just get from A to B and try not to let the kind of people who violate the edicts above bother you too much, hopefully some day they will learn.