Funny Business with Jane Wells

What Not To Do on the Subway

Subway Etiquette sign by Jason Shelowitz
Source: Jason Shelowitz

Stop clipping your nails on the Subway. Someone had to say it. Artist Jason Shelowitz just did.

Shelowitz, aka "jayshells", rides the New York Subway. A lot. Certain behaviors send him and his friends over the edge. "I decided it was time to say something," he tells me.

Shelowitz says he surveyed a hundred people about their gripes and formed a top ten list. "I then rewrote them as a set of rules, trying to apply some wit where applicable, and began hand silkscreening a limited number of posters." This week he started placing the posters around the Subway system.

Here are some of the posters. One warns people not to play their music loud ("Other passengers do not want to hear your favorite songs"). Others encourage riders to give up seats to older people or pregnant women, to keep their religious views to themselves, and to keep their hands to themselves.

There are posters about eating ("It's a train, not a food court"), one about hygiene ("If you cough or sneeze, cover it up with the inside of your arm. Don't cover with your hand and then grab the pole ... Also, keep your finger out of your nose. Please.")

But Shelowitz's favorite peeve (and mine) is the outcry over people clipping their nails on the Subway. He's created a poster which says, "Under no circumstances is the Subway the right place for this. The sound is incredibly annoying and the little nail bits go flying all over the place. Keep it at home please. It's crazy that this even needs to be mentioned."

Many people think the posters are legitimate, as if there's some sort of official etiquette campaign by the New York City Transit Authority. Maybe there should be. Shelowitz created an official looking logo in the bottom corner for a fake "MEA, Metropolitan Etiquette Authority".

Subway Etiquette sign by Jason Shelowitz
Source: Jason Shelowitz

He says the entire endeavor cost him time and $100 in materials. "It doesn't always take money to make a big statement," he says. I asked him if the posters have brought attention to his art. "I haven't noticed," he says. "It's been only two days, though, so you never know. That really isn't my goal, but if other good things come out of this, I will be happy to explore them."

Shelowitz says he's gotten so many responses to his survey that he may have to do a second run later this summer with more pet peeves. He encourages people to take the posters if they wish. "I really just wanted to give people something to relate to," he told me. "When people see them, they smile or laugh and seem to be thinking, 'YES! Exactly!'

Also, if I can get through to any of these perpetrators, that would be excellent, too. Making a difference would be amazing, but this run of posters may be too small to really get through to the nail clippers, a** grabbers and McDonald's eaters. But we shall see."

And we shall hope.

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