Sometimes I wonder about subway etiquette.
The other day I was on a train and noticed a man wearing an Autobots T-shirt. I poked Harold, with an attempt at subtlety, and pointed out the real-life counterpart to a Hasbro virtual-goods promotion we’d worked on for Next Island. I pointed out the three colorable fields, one of the attributes that caused difficulties, as if I could retroactively prove its desirability to players, and retroactively get back those hours arguing about it.
I’m not entirely sure why I want to snap a picture of the passenger in the Autobots shirt, it’s not actually my project and I can’t actually gather visual evidence to defend my argument last year, but I sort of do want a picture. Is that weird? It seems strange, even invasive, but it seems just as artificial to maintain the usual subway commute fiction that no one else exists. We travel together in tiny boxes, shoulder-to-shoulder sometimes, refusing to make eye contact, and hoping no one break the the rules, and forces us to acknowledge another person. So, should I try to take the photo, while pretending to text, and he can follow the subway etiquette of ignoring fellow passengers? But what if he breaks it?
Can I tell him I worked on a project making virtual versions of the t-shirt he’s wearing? Could I set up the camera, hold it in readiness, and then snap as I’m getting out of the subway?
There’s a commotion next to me, as I’m wondering whether I should take a video and look for a still later. A couple near me is trying to see the cover of a tabloid that a man’s got folded under his arm, and after trying to get a decent view of it, they finally ask him for a look at the paper.
It’s one of the city’s daily rags, and the cover is a sensationalist news photo of a young girl, with bloodstained hands and an all-caps headline, standing in from of a yellow-taped crime scene.
“It is!” the wife says triumphantly. “That is the building next door to us!”
Like I said, I don’t always understand the rules of subway behavior.