To the woman who tried to publicly shame me.

To the woman who tried to publicly shame me,

Good morning. We didn’t get to say good morning to one another on the elevator this morning. I know it’s frustrating that it’s only Thursday, that it’s gloomy out, that the building always has so much air conditioning that you have to wonder if Hell may have frozen over.

I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to introduce myself. I was already in the elevator when you stepped on, and my floor’s subtenant was also already in the lift. We have common interests such as Shark Week, so we were already deep into a conversation about the dead shark that was found on an N train recently. (Did you hear about that? Someone gave it a Red Bull, a Metrocard, and a cigarette! Hipsters!) I can only assume you were leaning in to eavesdrop on this conversation, looking for your moment to strike, when you heard it. Your entry point.

My knuckle cracked.

Now, I hadn’t twisted my fingers together to let loose a cracking avalanche inflicting such auricular torment that is usually only reserved for Mariah Carey during her most divalicious moments. I think I had my hand on the railing of the elevator, and the lift wiggled. Body parts move. Sometimes they make noises. Rest assured that I was not trying to get your attention when my knuckle committed sonic mutiny. I’m a good girl. My family didn’t raise me like that.

“Stop THAT,” you snapped, barely turning to look at me.

“Stop what?” I asked, since I could not tell if you had a shark phobia and wished for us to end our conversation. Maybe you didn’t believe in talking on elevators. I didn’t know.

THAT.” If words could gesture, yours would have been stabbing its serifs at my digits. “THAT will give you arthritis.”

Do you have a traumatic history with the words “cracking your knuckles?” Are you allergic? If you say it three times, will it happen again? Did you mistake me for Beetlejuice? If so, I understand your confusion since I am wearing a striped shirt, but my top is grey and black horizontal stripes, whereas he favored black and white vertical stripes. If only you’d introduced yourself, we could have cleared that up easily!

I’m sorry I laughed at your intensity. Arthritis is hardly infrequent in my family, and I myself have been treated for “arthritis-like” pain in the past. I was in 4th grade and could hardly stand from the pain. Though all the symptoms I described sounded like arthritis, I did not have the joint damage or physical signs that would lead to a diagnosis. I was afraid my cracking bones had led to me being bed-bound for days. The doctor told me this simply wasn’t true. Based on my firsthand knowledge and continued research, I asserted, “That’s not true.”

“It is,” you insisted. “I’ve read research.”

“So have I,” I said. You were older than me, perhaps in your forties or fifties, and this is a respectable skyscraper. I felt my confidence begin to drain because it was entirely possible you worked in or with medicine. Maybe you knew more recent research than I did.

“You’ll see,” you pressed smugly. “Come see me in twenty years!” You paused dramatically, then added, “YOU WILL REMEMBER THIS CONVERSATION!”

Mostly I remember the awkward silence that followed since we were still several stops from your floor. Skyscrapers, what a bitch.

I’ll admit that you made me feel bad, stranger. You belittled me in front of a colleague. You treated me like a child and assumed I knew nothing. You spoke with such indignation and anger that you created doubt within me. I doubted myself and let your negativity in, and even when my companion said, “That was really rude” and “I bet her face will still look the same in twenty years, eesh,” I only took minimal relief.

But I want to thank you. Because of you, I’ve been doing some research. Maybe I don’t have access to unreleased medical studies yet, but the BBC, MSN, WebMD, Discovery Health, Medical News Today, and The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center all agree with me that your arthritis claims are bogus. Doctor Donald Unger cracked the knuckles in one hand for over sixty years without doing so to the other, and he developed no problems in either hand. I could be wrong, even with all of this evidence (or lack thereof) to back me up. I’m open to it. If you would like to correct me should we meet again, please do, but perhaps you could exercise a bit more kindness. Maybe you’d be happier if you watched Sharknado. It worked for us.

Also, I’m going to crack my knuckles in front of you deliberately next time. Because you’re a bitch.

Dear commuter, you are an asshole.

Hey, you. Yeah, you. You with your hideous trash bag resting on the seat next to you. (But it’s Marc by Marc Jacobs! you argue shrilly.) You leaning your entire body against the doors. You having a party on the platform because it’s Friday night, bitches!!!!!! Yeah, you’re an asshole.

I’ve never traveled abroad, so I’m not sure how other subway systems around the world compare. However, I can say without question that the New York City harbors an intense concentration of assholes. Perhaps they are oblivious, or maybe they just feel entitled. Regardless of the cause, residents and tourists alike seem to revel in making the uncomfortable experience of taking the subway even more intense. So, without further adieu, and because I get to look forward to taking the subway to work tomorrow morning, here are my top ten unsolicited tips on how to ride the subway in such a manner that you might actually be polite. Nobody will return the favor, but at least I get to vent.

1. Do not cross your legs during rush hour. When you’re packed to the gills on the subway, someone having his or her legs crossed means their legs jut out into open floor space. People can either straddle your legs and give you a free lap dance, or they can twist around you and get kicked in the shins but your thoughtlessness for the next hour. Just don’t do it.

2. Your balls are not that big. Every. Single. Day. I see a guy who has his legs spread apart like his knees both contain magnets that repel one another. Of course you’re the biggest man to ever man, but there’s no reason to deny another person a chance to sit down for the airy comfort of your nether regions. Likewise, if you have a bag between your feet, you don’t have to give it a foot of space on either side so your shins serve as bumpers.

3. Hold the pole with your hand, not your buttocks. Seriously? Yes, seriously. I have all too often seen people decide that the pole is the perfect size to wedge deftly into a certain bodily crevice. It’s not right. It’s probably not sanitary. And if you’re that comfortable with things going up your ass, maybe you should practice that hobby elsewhere. Additionally, do not hug the pole. You’re depriving other people a chance to hold on, and they really don’t want to hug you. Unless you ask, and then it’s okay.

4. Be aware of your stuff. I’ve never seen someone robbed on the train because they were oblivious. I have, however, seen and experienced being beaten by oversized bags, backpacks, umbrellas, musical instruments, breakdancers…you name it. I’m fragile, and so is my Kindle. I know because I just broke one last week.

5. The subway is not your stage. I’m cool with buskers in the subways, on the streets, you name it, but it seems that only the least talented are the sort who move from car to car, begging for money from a captive audience. If I’ve just been at work for nine hours, I really don’t want to listen to dreary accordion music while your sad wife walks behind you, carrying your child on her chest while her freshly bleached hair indicates that maybe you’re not that desperate for cash. Once again, breakdancers, you’re totally talented for being able to do what you do, let alone in motion, but STOP KICKING NEAR MY FACE. Children, you probably aren’t selling candy to fundraise for your school in July, and I really don’t want any overpriced fruit chews, so stop.

6. You do know other people can smell you, right? Never is this a more prevalent problem than in summer, when sweaty commuters raise their arms high to hold on. I’m unfortunately armpit height for many a natural, devil may care hipster, but natural body odors are not the only issue. People of all ages decide that they’d like nothing more than to smell like a giant ball of cotton, a poisonous flower, or a dress that’s been in an attic long enough to collect five generations of moths.  The bad smells on the subway come naturally enough, so there’s no reason to add to it with your chemical intervention. Bonus round! Never ever ever paint your nails on the subway.

7. I am not your pillow. I don’t understand how people can fall asleep on the subway. Yes, I’ve nodded off a few times, but it’s always been very late while under the influence of alcohol. It has never gone well. If you’re that sleepy, then maybe try to get more rest before you leave for work. I understand that some people are working two jobs or going to school at the same time. Whatever. The justified few do not excuse everyone.

8. Do your makeup at home. I do admire the women who are able to line their eyes without looking while in motion since I can barely manage while I’m sitting still and holding my breath. Still, what they do is obnoxious. They become distracted and don’t care what angle their elbows have to accomplish because that cat’s eye flick has to be just so. Also, how do they know that they’ll get a seat so they can actually do their makeup? God knows how many bodies have been stuffed into trashcans for the luxury. No wonder the MTA wants to get rid of the trash in the stations.

9. Get your iPhone out of my face. Most stations do not have WiFi yet. This hasn’t stopped many young professionals (and old professionals, and general lazy people) from having their iPhones/Blackberries/whatevers out on the subway, writing emails. Your email will not send. Why is communicating with the outside world so urgent? Would you be writing emails in your car during your commute home? No wonder so many people get into car crashes. Also, I don’t need to hear what you’re listening to as much as you do. If I can make out every word, how can you? Every time someone flips one headphone so the rest of the train can hear their music, a unicorn is disemboweled in hell.

10. Just be kind. Is that so hard? Apparently. When the conductor asks you to move to the center of the car, they mean everyone. Just because you’re getting off the train in five stops doesn’t mean that you deserve to be by the door, blocking everyone’s path. Stop standing up when you’re getting off at the next stop. You will still be able to stand up and exit the train when it stops, promise, and then you won’t be engaging in frottage. If you see someone elderly, stop applying your mascara and offer your seat. Ditto if you see someone pregnant, struggling with crutches, or even with really small children. If there’s a delay, maybe roll your eyes and grumble with a neighbor. Do not prepare for the impending revolution to overthrow the MTA, those assholes, why is the L train always fucked, I won’t have time to get my latte, the world is ending, etc. Don’t throw people on the tracks or shoot or stab them. Why do I even have to say this? We’re just people trying to get from point A to point B as cheaply as possible. Stop throwing elbows. It’s not a competition.

I’m sure all of this sounds completely obvious, but you’d be surprised. Unless you’ve taken the train in New York, in which case you’re either nodding along or brandishing your weapon because getting to and fro is tough shit, man. Feel free to share your subway pet peeves!