/Resolving the Great Subway Seat Debate

Resolving the Great Subway Seat Debate


Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

New York City. The city that never sleeps. The Big Apple. We all love it here, in the concrete jungle. What a town. The Yankees. Broadway. Skyscrapers. “I’m walkin’ here!” Taxis. Law & Order: SVU. The ferry. Central Park. And of course … the subway.

Every New Yorker has their own subway strategy, and everyone has their own opinion about how to handle the subway correctly. Maybe you think the G train sucks (but actually it’s good). Maybe you think the C train is good (actually, it sucks). The only thing we can all agree on is that the subway’s infrastructure is in shambles and someone (Andrew Cuomo) should fix it.

The subway conversation never stops, and unfortunately, it is now the subject of one of those viral prompt tweets that go around and everyone feels the need to weigh in on, myself included. Here’s the question, regarding the perpendicular benches of the model-R68 train cars, which were built in France and added to the fleet in the mid-’80s.

The choices — ranked scientifically from most preferable seat to least — are as follows:

Unquestionably the best choice. As a general rule, the best seats on the subway are the ones that have an open spot on one side. They’re less claustrophobic, and they’re usually close to the doors, so you can make a quick exit when you need to.

Who chooses this seat: Geniuses, visionaries, the best our society has to offer.

Seat five meets many of the same criteria as seat one. It is on the end of the bench. Arguably on the plus side, it has no railing, so you can angle yourself out if need be. The downside is that it is poking straight out into the aisle, which means you’re likely to get jostled a few times if you’re on a packed train.

Who chooses this seat: Upstanding citizens, good Samaritans, people whose friends are sitting in the nest across the aisle and want to lean in but not, like, stand over them.

Seat four has one huge thing going for it: It’s a window seat. If you’re on a line that goes over a bridge, this is a great seat! The skyline! Only in New York, baby! But this seat also has significant downsides. For one thing, you’re shoving yourself into a space with very limited leg room. God help you if you have anything other than a small bag with you. Also, if you’re not looking out the windows, you’re staring directly at the person in seat three, and that’s uncomfortable for both of you. If the car is packed, you have picked the absolute worst seat to try and get out of when it’s your stop. Sometimes, two friends will be in seats 5 and 3 and it’s not great to be in the middle of that.

Who chooses this seat: People with short or no legs, skyline appreciators, those settling in for a long ride, people who want to spy on the person in seat 3.

Seat 2 is not a great seat. It’s a middle seat. It’s never fun to sit in the middle. There’s not much else to say here. You’re surrounded on both sides, and there’s gonna be someone hovering over you. Just a classic suboptimal choice. You can’t really blame anyone for taking this seat. They must really need to sit down.

Who chooses this seat: People who are tired after a long day of work and don’t care about squeezing themselves in between two other people and just want to take a load off.

You might think that seat three is good because it is open on one side. False! It is the most confining seat in the configuration in multiple ways. Whoever is in seat four, if they’re not looking out the window (there’s not much to see when the car is underground) is going to be staring right at you. But you can’t really see them, so you have to figure out how to just glance over occasionally and make sure they’re not weird. On top of that, seat three’s legroom overlaps with seat five’s, so you have to worry about finagling that situation while seat four’s occupant’s weird knees are, like, right up against you. Physically and psychologically, seat three is a true nightmare seat.

Who chooses this seat: Scallywags, sociopaths, the Trump sons, serial killers, a small child with a baby brain who is riding the subway for literally the first time ever, the Joker.

A note on methodology: Obviously, you should always choose the train seat that puts the most distance between you and strangers. For this reason, I am assuming that the other four seats on the train in this hypothetical scenario will also be occupied once your selection has been made.

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