Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Bums in seats

[Part I of more than one on Oscar's New York Theories]

The #2 Bronx-Manhattan-Brooklyn express train

If you've ridden on the New York Subway system, you will recognize these seats as standard equipment for subway cars on the 1,2,3 and 9 trains on the West-Side of Manhattan. You will also know that, despite appearances in these photographs, the man on the far right does not have to be obese or slouching sideways for his body to spill over onto the next seat.

Yes, the contoured seats on these subway cars are shaped for exceedingly narrow butts. At crowded times, the average New Yorker must pack his or her booty into those spaces like a big scoop of vanilla ice cream into a sugar cone, and will be pressing the fleshy sides of his or her neighbors while at the same time feeling the seat edge cut into his or her saddle bags.

If the purpose of these narrow seats was to make more room for people to sit, it has perversely failed. Often, people will leave empty spaces rather than try to force themselves in.

So why are the seats designed this way? Two theories:

1) I've heard that the cars were manufactured in Japan, where they were designed for narrower Japanese behinds.

2) The cars were purchased during the mayoral reign of the fastidious and controlling Rudy Giuliani. My theory is that Giulani decreed that the City of New York would refuse to give any sort of official recognition to, or to accommodate in any way, any asses that are more than 14 inches wide.

That is just wrong.
Actually, the truth was revealed in the first season of Sex and the City, when Carrie was wondering why there weren't any men left in NY. Miranda calmly informed her that Giuliani had had them all deported.

And women, of course, fit comfortably into those teeny weeny seats.
The theory (or dogma) in some circles is that New Yorkers are not overweight. Rich and delicious food tempts New Yorkers everywhere they go, but they go everywhere on foot, so they burn off the calories.

Therefore, anyone who can't fit in one of those seats is an out-of-towner. Out-of-towners can take taxis. Or the F train.
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