The Five People You Meet on the Subway

We broke down the 5 types of riders you probably found yourself next to on the subway this morning


You know winter’s finally over when you prefer the smell of your month-old yogurt to the subway.

Trapped some 50 feet underground, takeout wrappers marinate in old newspaper folds among discarded change. If Manhattan is a melting pot, its trash is the amalgam of all the scraps that didn’t make it to the dinner table. And this, of course, is precisely why I love this city.

I spend a lot of time on the subway shuttling to and from places of work and leisure, various appointments and the occasional fitness class to which I am almost always late. I spend a lot of time trying not to fall asleep in the topknot of my seat mate, or jam the surface of my armpit into the face of the person below me — lord knows Secret may be strong enough for a man, but it’s no match for a Manhattan summer.

In all my twenty odd years riding the subway, I’ve found that Gogurt is the most transportation-friendly breakfast. I’ve also found that on any line, at any time, on any day I choose to ride, the following five passengers will be riding right beside me.

Oh, is My Music Too Loud?

It’s 8:20 a.m. and Laidback Luke next to you appears to be sleeping. His Beats by Dre however, tell a different story. From the looks of it, his headphones are on their fifth cup of coffee and they’re struggling to keep up with the EDC playlist Luke has prepared for them.

For the remainder of the ride, you will concentrate on your breath as you shoot glaring looks at Luke. He won’t notice. His eyes remain closed until miraculously, he jumps up just in time to make his transfer.

Five Course Franny

Five Course Franny always had a pack of Dunkaroos when recess rolled around. They were vanilla frosting-flavored with rainbow sprinkles and when she was done, she’d cleanse her palate with celery sticks. Now that Five Course Franny is grown and has a full time job, she must eat her meals in transit.

Never one to compromise her nom, Franny packs her breakfast in a string of Glad containers. She carries with her a single kitchen spoon and some Wet Ones, and has zero problems assembling a Greek yogurt parfait while standing up. She will one day lead the fight against dolphin obesity; the cure of which she is sure revolves around a balanced breakfast.

The Hot Dude Reading Who You Swear You Made Eye Contact With

He gets on at Smith Street. His carefully man-scaped beard suggests a deep level of dissatisfaction with his midtown office job. His flannel insinuates he’d rather be kicking it in Brooklyn with a creative cohort but also, that he is able to afford air conditioning.

Maybe you’ll muster up the courage to tell him that you, too, love Cormac McCarthy. Maybe you won’t. Maybe your phone will give you a damn signal so that Happn app can do its job.

The Peanut Gallery

The Peanut Gallery travels in a pack of at least five. They are chatty. They are loud. And they are almost always carrying Century 21 shopping bags. Reluctant as you are to admit it, you kind of want to skip your stop and hang out with them.

The Performer

To hell with Broadway prices; for $2.75 you can get the performance of your life. Or, you can get the magician whose “party trick” involves half a deck of cards and a loose tongue, but hey! This is New York. You might just get a six piece Mariachi band, a Parkour expert or a ukulele playing parakeet. No shame in the game. Just don’t miss your stop.

Drawing by Joseph Amar

While we’re categorizing “types,” what kind of shopper are you? Did someone say shopping? Check out Leandra’s shopping cart here. Need outfit inspo? These girls (and guy!) have some great closets to show off.

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  • Esther, I loved this! All so true. Just the other day an old man (I’d say in his late sixties, early seventies) got on the train and performed an original poem called ‘Peek-a-Boob,’ which utilized all sorts of rather abstract and altogether bad metaphors about sex and the female body. I’d be lying if I said he didn’t make my morning, though.

  • Julia

    HA the hot guy reading just made me laugh out loud, best description ever (and happened to me this morning). I curse the Paris metro every day because Happn doesn’t work underground, it kills me.


  • Love this post<3 thanks for sharing

    follow for follow?:)


  • Amelia Diamond

    “He won’t notice. His eyes remain closed until miraculously, he jumps up just in time to make his transfer” — THIS IS SO TRUE AND BLOWS MY MIND EVERY TIME. Lucky Luke also takes Amtrak!

  • dustUP

    Great variety! We do have a metro here, that is true, but no hot dudes using it, let alone hot dudes reading while using it. In Netherlands hot dudes ride bikes and unless you throw yourself in front of them, there is no easy way to start a conversation.

  • Catalina

    I once scolded a man for having his game playing on what seemed at the time, huge loud speakers. He turned his phone around to show me a screen of solitaire and replied kindly, “it’s not me”. And in that moment I became the Subway Etiquette Police.

  • AlexaJuno

    You forgot Obnoxious Middle Schoolers and Eastern European Tourists With Running Shoes and Neck Scarves.

    • ha! funny but this is what we call USA tourists here!

      • AlexaJuno

        The door swings both ways, of course. I’d just always assumed it would be something WAY worse. Because Americans, amiright? 🙂

  • Jasmine Pseat

    This is good. In San Diego our Trolley isn’t as diverse, but there’s always that Dude with the headphones. They are the worst riders IMO.

  • CarlotaLMorais

    This is such
    an accurate post!! I always sit by accident next to the “Oh my music is to loud
    kind of guy” when I’m on my way to an exam!

  • Aydan

    How about for those of us who walk to work: Man (or woman) with the most adorable dog ever. You then feel like a dog perv because you’re double taking and checking out their dog…

  • Abigail

    what about the couple that is commuting to work together, whispering sweet nothings and kissing goodbye and laughing their annoying heads off?

    • Esther Levy


  • Elizabeth Tamkin

    Hot Guy, a blessing. Franny and Peanuts all infuriate me. Performers I can deal with because honestly, sometimes their arm muscles….

    • Elizabeth Tamkin

      I mean because they sometimes do physical performances like flipping etc.!

  • How about “Oh Am I Talking Too Loud because I am Drunk”

  • Emper1976

    < ?????? +manrepeller +*********….. < Now Go R­e­­a­d M­o­r­e


  • Tracy

    Though I don’t usually take the subway, I loved reading this post! Beyond funny!



    ▬▬▬►►► Full Detail Here..,<-


  • Mairzi

    How about Fanny’s evil twin, Make-up Maggie who proceeds to perform all sorts of personal hygiene rituals on the train including nail clipping which in my opinion should only be done within the confines of your bathroom with the door closed. And she finishes right before her stop with a final blot of the lipstick and a toss of the tissue on the floor by your feet.