DISPATCH FROM NEW YORK CITY
2021’s Most Popular Subway Seat
The pandemic has changed everything. Yes, we know. What’s up is down, what’s far is Zoom, and what was once the New York City subway’s most undesirable seat is now its most prized. You know the seat. It’s the last one in the car, the one all the way at the end, next to the framed sign that reminds you that “riding between cars is prohibited,” as if anyone without a 40oz in their hand would ever really risk life and limb to surf the rails. It’s the least main attraction, where you used to get inevitably pushed — shoved — when the subway had… well, people on it.
Until 2020, this is the seat you never went near. John Travolta may have made it look sexy and ’70s romantic with a suit and cigarette (can you imagine smoking on the subway?), but it was disgusting and usually fully occupied by a homeless man tightly wrapped in a blanket that smelled of urine, beer, and dollar pizza. You avoided it. You clutched your bag and your iPad, along with your pearls. You traded looks with strangers to silently acknowledge that no matter how bad things got — crammed be damned — you would be just fine as long as you didn’t have to go near it.
Well, well, well. How things have changed. As riders get back underground and the entire subway system undergoes a nightly car-wash from 2 a.m.-4 a.m., that seat — yes, that one! — is now the most highly coveted in the car. It’s distant. It’s clean. And it’s up for grabs if you’re fast enough. It’s a private suite at Yankee Stadium, a Prime Parterre Box seat at the Met. If you want to avoid all of humanity and breathe into your N95 in total solitude, look no further. That seat is now a safe space, your own little railcar refuge. What used to be last on the list is now top spot.
How long before the MTA ropes it off and starts charging a premium for it? These are tough times.