February 25, 2004

Subway Germs...Ewww!

POST #    786

In the past few years, I've developed this sort of germ-phobia while in the subway. I avoid holding the handlebars at almost all costs. When I lived in Murray Hill and took the train from 33rd to Union Square, I knew exactly where the bend in the track was and would only touch the bar if I was going step on someone. When I can, I lean against the doors. If I must touch the bar, I touch with minimal parts of my hand and then wipe vigorously after I let go. If I were really insane, I would bring some hand sanitizer with me everywhere, but I'm not quite there yet. The strange thing is, while I despise touching the handlebar, I'll lean my head against the wall of the car while I sit without giving it a thought.

I'm no better in public bathrooms. I turn the faucet off with the paper towel I use to dry my hands, then open the door with that paper towel, and finally throw the paper towel in the garbage can while holding the door open with my foot.

Posted by tien mao in NYC, Random at 7:15 AM



tien, i feel your pain. i too am a subway germaphobe. i wear my gloves on the train at all times, even when it feels about 95 degrees in there. i take comfort in the fact that i am not directly touching anything in the subway where i keep seeing males playing with themselves. (another charming subway feature).
however, it was pointed out to me that while trying to maintain balance and juggle my stuff, i removed my glove with my teeth. gross. oops.

Posted by: christina at February 25, 2004 9:37 AM

Easy way around that one, buddy.

Just be the dirtiest person on the train. You'd actually get cleaner by holding the poles.

OR, you could employ the "sleeve-grab" technique during which your skin never touches the metal. You just pull your arm into your sleeve and use it as a faux-potholder.

Posted by: Maine at February 25, 2004 10:25 AM

Hmm. When I got back from my little tunnel excursion on Sunday night, it took me 20 minutes to scrub the dirt off of my hands. I still haven't brought my shoes into the apartment because I don't want to touch them. Ick.

Somehow I think I've ruined my chances of Tien ever standing next to me again.

Posted by: corie at February 25, 2004 10:29 AM

I never sit when I'm riding the subway nor do I hold on to the pole. I stumble a bit when the train rounds a bend or grinds to a halt, but overall, Camper sneakers have amazing traction...

Posted by: s. at February 25, 2004 10:33 AM

I think you guys are OCD. or maybe im just a dirtygirl. I think that the subway is a mind trip and that avoiding touching things in it is really pointless since you go through the city touching so much dirt and grime unintentionally every day anyway.

Posted by: rachelle on a dell at February 25, 2004 10:52 AM

christina, i would say removing your gloves with your hands is not a good idea. i try not to use my gloves to hold the pole because i know they hardly get washed, where as pants are washed with more frequency.

maine, the sleeve grab becomes troublesome in the winter when my jacket interferes and in the summer when i have no sleeves.

corie, yikes, that's a lot of dirt. the thing is, i'm not skeeved out by dirt. it's just subway germs. so, i suppose your boots would definitely apply.

s, there are certain bends in the subway system that always cause me to lose my balance, even if i am balancing myself.

this all reminds me of when the simpsons come to new york and bart panhandles in the subway and licks the poll and says that he's in way over his head.

Posted by: tien at February 25, 2004 10:52 AM

oh and rachelle, i try not to touch anything in the city.

Posted by: tien at February 25, 2004 10:56 AM

Sheesh. Germs are germs. I hope that you don't go to the gym, Tien. Think about all of the germs and sweat all over the place there. Probably shouldn't shop at the supermarket, either, because people touch things all over the place and often times washing just isn't enough. Or the beach or pools, cuz people pee in them (and not just that) and fish poo in them (people, too, I'd venture to think).

I'm with Rachelle...ya down with OCD?

Posted by: corie at February 25, 2004 12:17 PM

yeah you know me...

but seriosuly, i don't really think about germs except when i'm in the subway or in public bathrooms.

that said, i never really went to the gym (despite paying for it), i hardly go to the supermarket, and i don't really go to the beach or pools. not that i don't go because i fear germs.

Posted by: tien at February 25, 2004 12:20 PM

i hate it when people don't hold on in the subway and end up crashing into other people. i even yelled at a girl once for crashing into me repeatedly. and i don't yell much.

Posted by: el at February 25, 2004 12:37 PM

Tien, I'm learning about a whole new side of you....

Posted by: corie at February 25, 2004 12:39 PM

I wonder how the amount and type of germs transmitted by holding onto the poles compares to the germs transmitted simply by breathing air in an enclosed subway car filled with people?

OPP was used as an abbreviation at some meeting I was at a while back, so I said "I'm down with OPP" and there wasn't a single look of recognition. :(

Posted by: joe s at February 25, 2004 12:51 PM

i hate it when people get up in my personal space while i'm in the subway. this is despite there being lots of room elsewhere.

corie, i hope it's a good side, but probably not.

joe, i would love to do that in a meeting.

Posted by: tien at February 25, 2004 1:20 PM

The poles are safe, give them a try sometime, they help reduce the chances of falling on to other people or on you ass. I mean as long as you don't lick the poles, I'm sure you'll be ok.

Posted by: Keith at February 25, 2004 1:22 PM

Good grief.

Everyone knows that germs don't make you sick anyway, it's a lack of positive thinking.


Posted by: joe at February 25, 2004 1:24 PM

tien, i'm surprised at the amount of animosity there is towards people who just dont like touching the damn subway poles. i never realized it was such an oddity? or so offensive? as long as you dont fall on other peoples' laps, get in the way, or make a general annoyance out of yourself, what is wrong with one fewer set of germs? seems like a good thing to me. now if EVERYONE would just stop touching the poles, they would be germ free. start a movement.

Posted by: christina at February 25, 2004 4:19 PM

I don't have a problem with people who don't touch subway poles. Actually, I like them a lot better than the people who drape their entire bodies around them so that no one else can hold on. If you're anything like me and have no balance, subway poles are very important.

Posted by: corie at February 25, 2004 4:29 PM

i usually hook my foot around the bottom of the pole. if you do it right, you can limit your pole contact to the area below the knee. you also leave the rest of the pole open for the people that actually like to touch it.

i can't believe i used pole 3 times in a paragraph that wasn't about strippers.

Posted by: dan at February 25, 2004 5:17 PM

i hate it when people lean on the pole and there's no space for you to grab on.. especially when they lean on it with the pole firmly planted between their ass cheeks.

Posted by: rachelle on a dell at February 25, 2004 5:26 PM

i also hate it when i try to use the bar/pole and people put their hand right on top of mine when there is plenty of space available. or when their hands slide down and they don't move them back up.

Posted by: tien at February 25, 2004 5:46 PM

the person who grabs your hand on the pole is the worst. some guy did that and i swear he was trying to start something. a friend of mine suggested that next time it happens, look at the person and say "it doesnt feel prosthetic does it?"
i cant wait till someone grabs my hand again.

Posted by: christina at February 25, 2004 5:54 PM

who knew subway poles (and the lack of grabbing on to them) would incite such fervent debate?

i once saw a woman on the subway get on (in the summertime) with white gloves. she put a plastic bag down on the seat before she sat down. i thought she was crazy b/c ny is not a place to live if you don't like germs. i have taken to washing my hands when i get into work after touching the pole, but sometimes i forget. but for me, that's ok. life's too short to worry too much about subway pole germs.

NYC is a hard place to live if you are germ-phobic. i feel like whatever doesn't make you sick is ok. i mean, think about what you INGEST when you dine out or order in. there's all kinds of nastiness in the kitchen that gets in your food. at least subway pole germs are just on your hands unless you lick them.

(joe s - i'm saddened that you work in a place where no one knows about OPP. that's just not right.)

Posted by: jeannette at February 25, 2004 11:12 PM

i find it hard to believe that real germ-phobics can survive in urban areas. i mean, why live here? dirt and germs are part of our city's charm. we all become immune at some point...and if we don't, we die. like an urban survival of the fittest.

in terms of subway poles, i can't stand when someone hooks their arm around it and process to lean...as if their perfecting their modeling pose for the next ms/mr F train competition. even worse is the person in the train who, even though there's a bit of space on the pole to hold onto, insists on places their hand on the ceiling, arching their arm directly over your head. this is particularly insufferable in the summer, and i always wind up under the smelly people.

Posted by: corie at February 26, 2004 9:07 AM

Christina - We'll definitely need some follow-up on the prosthetic hand remark - pure genius!

Posted by: Oscar at February 26, 2004 9:32 AM

I think people licking their hands is a big part of the problem. We don't intentionally lick our hands, but without thinking we do rub our eyes, pick our nose, wipe coffee and donut off our lips, etc.

Not knowing about OPP isn't the saddest, jeannette. I had friends over a couple of weeks ago and several of them had never heard of the Ramones. That almost made me cry.

Posted by: joe s at February 26, 2004 9:32 AM

i maintain that i'm not a real germaphobe, just a subway one.

Posted by: tien at February 26, 2004 9:46 AM

jeannette- that was me with the white gloves on and the plastic bag... no I'm just kidding. I'm not that neurotic.
Trust me, I have grown up my whole life with dirt and germs, etc etc. However, I have just seen a little bit too much of the true nastiness of New Yorkers, especially on the subway (sorry native New Yorkers who are NOT nasty) to think that the subway germs are not a whole new breed of filth. However, welcome to the real world. People come to NY for the opportunity it presents. Germs are one of the many negatives one must put up with to live here. However, I dont feel the need to needlessly hold onto things that are covered w/ other people's bodily fluids.
Oscar-pure genius is right! I will definately keep you posted.

Posted by: christina at February 26, 2004 10:51 AM

lol! christina - if i ever see anyone with gloves and plastic bag, i will ask them if they read tienmao.com. ;)

to each his own. i think most ppl who live in ny are vaguely disgusted by it's dirtiness. some ppl care more, some ppl care less. i do know that i see really really dirty stinky bums grabbing subway poles and doors and seating their damp (with urine/poo?) bums on the subway seats. ppl are really into biting their nails or picking noses and grabbing the poles. i've stopped wearing my shoes into my apartment (who knows what kind of human/animal fecal matter i've stepped on?).

ny's germs aren't just limited to the subway, tien. they're EVERYWHERE!!! i'm grossing myself out thinking about this.

do you think born and bred new yorkers have stronger immune systems than those who've grown up in relatively clean places?

Posted by: jeannette at February 26, 2004 12:22 PM

jeannette, how long will it be before you're the person with the gloves, plastic bag, dust mask, and plastic booties for your shoes?

Posted by: joe s at February 26, 2004 1:02 PM

see jeannette, the thing is, i know that germs are everywhere in ny. i eat chinese food, i eat ... well, that list is long. but the only thing that really hate is the subway germs (and bathrooms). that said, it's not like i love germs elsewhere.

Posted by: tien at February 26, 2004 3:34 PM

on the bright side of these cold winters? when wearing gloves on the subway, i can actually hold the railing and not freak out about the undergound germs!

Posted by: doug at February 26, 2004 9:52 PM

joe s - it's just a matter of time. plastic booties on my shoes? now that's an idea...

my dad is a freak about the tp rolling from the TOP of the roll, not the bottom. i used to not care. now guess who HAS to have the tp roll from the top?

Posted by: jeannette at February 27, 2004 4:56 PM

i used to be, i had a gas mask and a respirator and some gloves and a surgical cap

Posted by: bob at November 19, 2006 7:02 PM

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