The New York subway system has been attempting to teach riders to be more courteous. Great, as we have an often undeserved reputation for being rude riders. But the most ill-conceived idea involves backpacks.
Backpacks are a practical way to carry books, work supplies and lunch. They’re kinder to the spine than a heavy tote or messenger bag that causes an uneven distribution of weight. Here’s why I won’t take mine off on the train:
- Floors are dirty. That filth will transfer to your clothes when you put the pack back on. And since it’s behind you, you’ll have no idea just how bad it is until you take off your coat.
- It’s the same size whether it’s on the floor or above it.
- People will trip on the straps that are resting on the floor.
- The backpack makes it harder for purse snatchers to grab a pocketbook’s shoulder strap. (That’s my theory and I stand behind it.)
- A backpack on the floor is easier to steal than one that is on your body.
- In the Seventies we had a problem with men who would rub up against women on crowded trains. You don’t hear much about that any more but I’ll bet that someone with a backpack would make it harder for a “leaner” to make physical contact.
Generally, the system is safe. A bajillion people use it every workday and sometimes bring their children. Courtesy and kindness happen.
But clearly, the people who run the “largest transportation agency in North America” don’t use the system that they run. They’re the same people who responded to the recent spate of slashings by reminding commuters not to fall asleep on the subway.
Granted, sleeping is public isn’t safe but tired workers sometimes can’t help it. Many years ago, when I was working my way through school, I fell into such a deep sleep on the train that a woman woke me up at the last stop – my stop – as gently as she would wake her own daughter. So no, let’s not judge the exhausted.
But the clueless folks running the system? Fair game.