Thursday, May 20, 2010

Passing the Time on the Subway

How do people spend their time on the subway? After a careful and systematic study of this question, I have come to some general conclusions. The most common way to pass the time on the subway is to stare into space. Yes, it's true. By a wide margin doing nothing at all is the most frequent subway passenger activity. And no wonder, really. We all get so used to being squeezed into this small space with too many people, in which it is impossible to hold a newspaper or carry on a private conversation, that just about the only thing left is nothing. Of course, nothing comes in a variety of forms. On morning trains, another highly common activity is sleeping. Also frequent is monitoring one's phone or Blackberry. Reading is probably the third or fourth most popular way to spend the time, right after nothing, sleeping, and Blackberrying. Other favorites are conversing with a fellow passenger, panhandling, promoting a product or service, putting on makeup, and talking to oneself. Here, then, is the official top ten list in order of frequency:

1. Staring into Space
2. Sleeping
3. Monitoring one's electronic device
4. Reading
5. Conversing
6. Panhandling
7. Loudly promoting a product or service
8. Talking to oneself
9. Putting on makeup
10. Writing or completing a puzzle

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