The 8 Types of People You Meet On The NYC Subway


I’ve ridden the NYC Subway (Specifically the #1 train) fairly frequently over my 3 years working here. In that time I’ve identified a number of subway ‘types’ – certain prototypical New Yorkers that comprise your average subway train. Here’s a brief list of them.

The Apathetic

Notice the absolute vacant look on this poor pregnant lady’s face? It’s normal. The Apathetic New Yorker rides the subway with a look that screams “My God, why am I doing this…” They don’t seem angry – in fact, they don’t seem to show any emotion whatsoever. They’re just existing, and they’re trying to just get where they’re going in no worse mood than they were when they got on the train. About 90% of the average subway car is made up of the Apathetic.

The Angsty Teenage Couple

The Angsty Teenage Couple comes in a few forms. They can sometimes sit together, leaning / merging with each other as much as possible, or more frequently, they’re seen in the pose shown above. The boyfriend, with a cool detached thuggish look holds his lady, who hangs onto him as though he’s the only thing that will get her through another day in the Big Apple. Sometimes he tires of her hangings on, and it shows.

The Annoying Kids

The annoying kids, here shown in a mostly benign form, create masses of clueless idiots, vaguely aware of their surroundings. You won’t get past their group if they’ve spilled out beyond the seats. Extra points if the conversation turns to stereotypical teenage first-world problems.

The Clueless Headphoner & The Horrible Singer

Monster beats by dre studio © by foeock

The Clueless Headphoner is different from an Apathetic using headphones. The Clueless variety usually don’t even bother to keep the volume low enough to hear announcements. You’ll find them racing out of a train if they realize at the last moment that the train is skipping stops to catch up to the time table. You’ll also find them lost in a world of sound while truly interesting conversations are going on around them (i.e. fights).

The Horrible Singer usually sports the same headphones as the clueless Headphoner, but sings to his music. This is usually only done if the Horrible Singer is larger and/or more intimidating than the rest of the car. Example? There is an above-average-height-and-weight african-american gentlemen who likes to sing rap music on the 1. The only problem is that he doesn’t know any of the lyrics other than the profanity. Here’s an excerpt of his rendition of 50 Cent’s P.I.M.P.

I dunno what you heard bout me
but a N*GGER can get a <mumble> <mumble> me
No Cadillac, no <mumble> <mumble> see
I’m a M*THERF**KING P.I.M.P!

Fortunately the Apathetics nearby didn’t really care to correct the Horrible Singer.

The Random Talker

loud talking © by breezyjay

What do you think happens when someone wants to talk about random things and 90% of the train is apathetic (And trust me, the Random Talker does not talk to any of the other groups). Well the Random Talker usually gets a mumble or two from their companion, unless the person they’re addressing is actually a Random Talker shunned into Apathy. Then they spring to life and chat lively. They’d annoy the apathetics around them… if the apathetics cared.

The Fighter

Boxing Gloves © by KWDesigns

So every so often an Apathetic gets a rush of emotion and becomes a Fighter. Or an Angsty teenager or Annoying Kid decides to get up in another of their kind’s business. In any event, this is one of the few things that will get the attention of the Apathetics, mostly so they know which way to move in the car as to avoid collateral damage. Bonus points if you witness a fight between stations, and get to observe a good samaritan keep the fighters apart until one is unceremoniously ejected from the train by said samaritan. Fighters are good examples of NYC justice. No one calls the conductor – justice is administered by your peers, simply telling you to shut up and settle down, while deciding who has a better claim to stay on the train at the next stop.

The Tourist

NYC Subway Map © by ryan.hoffman

They hold copies of maps, talk to each other, and generally fail to notice the vacant looks of those around them. Sometimes they’ll find a NYC resident who has mercy on them and explains how to get where they want to go. More often they find an apathetic who waves at the map in the car while saying something like “Take 1 to Time Square, then grab a N, or a Q, or go down to 34th street and take LIRR from Penn, or just take the shuttle from 42nd to the Lexington ave line down there”. Tourists have no idea what any of that means. Somehow they’ll get where they’re going, likely at the end of a $25 cab ride where a $2.50 subway ride could have worked out just as fast. If you’re going to be visiting NYC, figure out directions from a trusted source – the apathetics don’t care to mess you up. As noted, they don’t care about anything but getting off the train and resuming their lives.

So, did I miss anyone? Let me know in the comments!

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