Hell is other people's chicken
January 17th, 2011
04:00 PM ET
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I am not down with O.P.C.

As a 15 year resident of New York City, I have seen some serious mess bubble up on the subway. I've witnessed self-soiling stockbrokers and a drag queen in the throes of a heroin nod eating a pink Hostess Sno Ball that had been rolling along the car's grime-caked floor. I have stood near the splash zones of all manner of bodily fluid exchanges and oh hells's bells - the endless, unclad 'nads.

So what in the name of all that is holy would drive a person to think the subway is a dandy place to gobble down a chicken dinner?

But they do, they DO in flocks and deep-fried droves. Young, old, male, female, from every nation on Earth and borough of the city, they descend into the bowels of the New York City transit system with aluminum take-out pans and paper buckets to wreak reeking hell upon their fellow riders. No matter how much one loves chicken (and holy cluck, do I love me some chicken), the warm, sickening waft permeating every last centimeter of a body-jammed subway car is enough to put a person off their feed.

Any hot food on the subway - yes, you, Mr. Roast Beef Sandwich Chomper, and I *am* talking to you, little Miss Big Mac - is cruel and unusual punishment for other passengers. We're stacked like sweaty cordwood into a sealed metal box prone to nauseating jolts, someone's aforementioned bodily fluid or unclad bits could plop into your dinner at any second and dude - you are seriously stinking up the joint. Even if your meal smells like truffles, rainbows and unicorn burps, you're taunting a hungry co-commuter and that's just plain mean.

Mostly, though, it's chicken, and through some strange law of subway physics, the smell wafts and gags and settles and...oh sweet Colonel Sanders, he's not...oh yes he is...he's LEAVING THE BONES BEHIND!

I am not making this up. Each and every time I have ridden the train from my friend's home in Astoria, Queens back to my home in Brooklyn, the car has either come pre-boned or someone has gotten on, chomped, and left the remains behind as if to practice some manner of dark transit magick upon the Q line. I can tell you from experience that no manner of spell, prayer or incantation is going to make that three-borough schlep even one minute faster. That still doesn't give straphangers the green light to spread out and have a picnic.

We all have places to be and precious little time in which to get to them. It may be tempting to tuck into a hot bird aboard the train and arrive at one's destination well-fed (and hey - free floor show!). Still, I stand by the decree I laid down a decade ago when a hometown friend was bunking with me while seeking a New York City nest of her own.

"I'll just grab some chicken lo mein and eat it on the train on the way to my audition."

"No." I shook my head. "You won't. I hate to sound bossy, but I just can't let you do that. Eat it on a park bench, let your stomach rumble through your audition, scarf it walking down the street - just don't, I beg of you, even consider doing it on the subway."

She pouted for a second, as only an aspiring off-Broadway actress can. "But...but...I see other people eating on the subway. Why shouldn't I?"

Well, friend, because it's just plain fowl.

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soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. patsybronx

    Excuse me, but is anyone aware that there is actually a law against eating on the subway? There are several good reasons for this – several of which can usually be spotted cavorting about on the tracks. If you don't leave food for the vermin, it's harder for the vermin to do their little dance.

    But It's probably the second most violated transit regulation – right after the one that says you can't walk between cars.

    January 18, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      I've been researching if it's actually illegal and thus far, I've been unable to come up with anything other than open container alcohol laws and prohibitions against selling food. Will keep digging.

      Nail clipping on the subway should be an arrestable offense.

      January 18, 2011 at 9:49 am |
      • Jonathan

        Nail clipping?! Does that really go on Kat? Ewwww! Along with that, brushing hair, brushing teeth, taking off your shoes and self pottying. All arrest-able offenses.

        February 8, 2011 at 7:17 am |
      • Sara

        Nail clipping in ANY public space should be illegal. One of my co-workers used to clip his nails in an adjacent cube, and it totally skeeved me out. That sound is unmistakable.

        July 21, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • madoshi

      Thats a stupid law. I'm fully capable of packing out my own garbage, and I can eat without getting it all over me. Therefore I'll eat wherever and whenever I choose. I will follow NO law that tells me where I can and can't eat, and I'll gladly spend time in jail over it.

      July 7, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
      • Truth@madoshi

        Well, good luck with that.

        July 7, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
      • MalaDee@madoshi

        Ya know ..... maybe you can, but the law's actually targeting people who can't or won't.

        Face it, sometimes it's not about you.

        July 7, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  2. shayshay

    The author of this article needs to get a life, instead of waisting theirs on being annoyed at other people. There are bigger problems for me then the person next to me eating chicken and I'm a vegetarian.

    January 18, 2011 at 1:33 am |
  3. Sherri

    Just because you CAN, does not mean you should. It's called consideration for others. But many do not have it. When I worked in an office and ate lunch at my desk, I took the remains to the hall so as to not smell up the office area. Not everyone wants to smell someone else's lunch. Hot food seems to permeate things more. Maybe have a no-food car??
    To those of you who think it is OK to do this, re-think it. Either eat before you get on the train or wait till you're home. Just be considerate of other riders, who can't get away from you and the smells.

    January 18, 2011 at 12:30 am |
    • Jonathan

      I too worked in an office environment and can I tell you that FISH is the WORST thing ever to be eating around your coworkers?! There was a lady who had it every other day and I think it was microwaved leftovers. The smell lingered forever. Finally we put up a sign asking for people to take into consideration of fellow employees. The smell is killing us.

      February 8, 2011 at 7:15 am |
  4. Caivan

    I wish eating and drinking on the subway were forbidden here in Boston, but our greedy MBTA has found a way to rake in even more money. rent space inside the bigger stations to Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.

    January 17, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  5. brooklyn rider

    Only in nyc and that's what makes it unique once you leave you crave the silly things that make up ny

    January 17, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  6. moi

    Maybe if they would actually get someone to enforce the rules on public transportation systems (get some nice fines in there to stop idiots AND add funding for the systems) and clean them up a little, people would actually want to use them. They'd save money and be better for the environment, but as they are now, public transportation is so disgusting that it's difficult to convince myself to pay so much to ride.

    In contrast, the subways in Japan are cheaper and so sparkling clean and pleasant that I'd eat off the floor if I could (can't cause they actually enforce their rules!)

    January 17, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • AMA

      Uh...I was just in Japan (Osaka, Tokyo and elsewhere) within the last month. Yes, their trains might be cleaner than the NYC subway, but they aren't sparkling and people do eat on them (although it is true that they seem to do so less often on the subways, probably because they are packed enough that you're bound to get an elbow shoving against your chopstick if you do). And drink...and spill...probably because there is a vending machine facing you every time the door opens. In fact on the larger bullet trains, food carts come and sell to you. I love the food, I love the trains. But in Japan they are not always separate. It may be that you have more experience than I do...I was just a tourist. But if there is a rule against it, it's not posted that I could see, and it is not enforced.

      January 19, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  7. Otto

    Eating to drinking on any public transport should be against the law, and that law should be enforced by giving fines to those breaking the law. It is a mess to step in spilled coffee or sit on a messy seat, caused by someones carelessness.
    It is grose to ride the Q40 bus, even though most are new. People seems to think it's their dining room and the nasty people leaves the wrappers and other mess on the buses.
    Mess is one thing in the subway systems and it seems everyone talks about chicken. Well, I have news for you; just wait until a (some) homeless person comes on board or was on board. The seats, seat back, area around that part; you name it, stinks to high heaven. Sometimes a homeless person have an entire train car by himself, while other cars are packed. Now, that's what smells!

    January 17, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • S.M.

      I agree. I'm not overly fond of the DC metro because it's just a bit expensive and slow at times, but at least it's fairly clean. They don't let people eat and drink on the metro or in the metro stations. I've heard people get yelled at over the intercom system for trying to eat, and you can get a ticket from the metro cops if they're around.

      January 17, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  8. Ha, "unicorn burps"

    Best use of a mythical creature in a food story, ever.

    January 17, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Jonathan

      LOL@unicorn burps! I thought that was very clever and it actually made me laugh out loud too.

      February 8, 2011 at 7:08 am |
  9. rob

    the mTA blows. Ride SEPTA. much better cleaner faster better built system. mta is crap. they don't own most of their railcars cause they can't afford em, and theyre made in korea. SEPTA has all American equipment built like tanks. and unlike ny, SEPTA runs every mode of transit imaginable.

    January 17, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • Erin

      Are you serious? SEPTA is disgusting. I ride it everyday and will never get used to the foul smell of their train cars, buses, and stations.

      January 18, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  10. Evan

    To the author: You'd be hard pressed to make this article any more annoying. Stop trying to be witty and overusing overused puns.

    January 17, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      To the commenter: And a delightful evening to you too, sir. Hope writing that made your evening nicer.

      January 17, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
  11. Subway eater

    I am one of the guilty parties who has done it. Not often, but sometimes you just have to. I envy those who always have the time to eat and don't have blood sugar problems... some of you doesn't seem to live in the same city I do!

    Many of you mentioned that the subway is a disgusting place to eat. Maybe next time before your judgmental mind sets in, remember the fact that at that very moment, eating in the disgusting subway is the best choice that person has. That person doesn't have the luxury to eat at a park bench or a restaurant. It's either risking blood sugar crash or eating in the subway or being late for a meeting...

    It isn't always about you.

    January 17, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
    • S.M.

      Here in DC they don't let you eat in the Metro system and I haven't ever seen anyone pass out or die because of it. It's not all about you either, maybe you should snarf down a protien bar or something to tide you over. Having a quick snack is one thing, wolfing down a hot 3 piece that everyone else has to breath in while riding in a sardine can is just rude.

      January 17, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  12. Fiona

    Most of this rant holds true for airplanes, too, these day. Warm, greasy, damp food smells and the body odors that go with them...all while you are locked in a metal tube with recycled air...but in this case for hours and hours.

    My worst transit gross-out was when I slipped in a pool of vomit on a city bus. Of course, there was the time a teenaged black girl spat on me, while I was on a city bus, because I'm white. But of course that wasn't because she was racist or anything. No. It was because she was an oppressed minority. Yep.

    January 17, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  13. cpc65

    Somebody warn Peter Griffin that the giant chicken is back!

    January 17, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  14. Skottikins

    What is ridiculous is being forced to deal with the fall out of other riders eating, rather than them having some manners and waiting until they are above. I hardly think any one is " starving". There are more places to buy a snack and eat it while walking than you can shake a stick at.

    January 17, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • Fiona

      The last time I remember manners counting for anything was more than 50 years ago.

      January 17, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  15. NYC Subway Rider

    While I understand and agree with the need for etiquette (leaving trash on the car is foul) quite honestly I think most of the time if someone is eating on the subway car they probably don't give a damn if the odor is unpleasant for another rider. The only times I've eaten on the subway are times of desperation; I'm late to a meeting, etc. and telling someone that you think they should instead starve themselves seems pretty ridiculous.

    January 17, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  16. Joe Fromaggio

    YES YES YES - NO FOOD ON THE SUBWAY (OR DRINKS EITHER)!!!! That's the law, but there's no enforcement and the insensitive, selfish few make it uncomfortable for everyone. Stinky fast food the worst, but also folks that have open drinks that slosh around with every takeoff and jolt, kids eating stuff that goes half in their mouth and half somewhere else. . . Rats on the subway? Geez, I wonder why. . . . Maybe because there's so many pigs to clean up after.

    January 17, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  17. sean

    I leave single slice pizza boxes on the Q. Some times i move over before the next stop just to see if anyone will move it before sitting hahahaha

    January 17, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • Joe Fromaggio

      Wow, man, that's really clever. Heh heh uhhh.

      January 17, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  18. Bert

    This is one of my favorite things about DC's Metro–NO food or drink allowed! Makes for a clean, chicken smell-free ride. And people do say something if they see someone else with food or a Starbuck's cup. We're proud of our (relatively) clean trains, we'd like to keep them that way!

    January 17, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • JHeritage

      I did not know this was law in DC but as a tourist, I DID notice how amazingly clean your subways were. It sure works, we've see a lot of subways and DC was by far the cleanest every time.

      January 17, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Erin

      You are lucky that they actually enforce those rules. Similar no eating/drinking rules exist in Philly but the only attempt they make to enforce them is to hang up signs that say no food/drink.

      January 18, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  19. Skottikins@jjdecor

    This is fantastic. Eating in ANY enclosed transit space is horrid. My personnel experience comes from flying...it seems the thing to do is to buy chinese food and eat it luke-warm in flight. The smell is nausiating.

    January 17, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  20. Sam Meyer

    I wish to state, for the record, that this Astoria resident has nothing to do with your pre-boned train cars. (then again, I don't wind up on the Q that often.)

    January 17, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  21. Erin

    I totally agree with everything you said in this article. I'm in Philly and I often say how the whole subway system smells of friend chicken fast food. It doesn't help that one of the largest stations downtown hosts a McDonalds, Taco Bell, and 2 Church's Chicken. There are rules that you are not allowed to eat/drink on public transit but they are never enforced. The worst was when I was riding a trolley underground and we got stopped in the tunnel under the river. It just so happened that day the car was packed and someone decided to enjoy their multi-course friend greasy meal. The smell was disgusting and there wasn't any way to escape from it.

    January 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • andy

      Learn the difference between the words "friend" and "fried" before getting all hoity-toity about chicken on the subway.

      January 17, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
      • Navy Proud

        Guess you never made a typo eh anyd.

        January 17, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
      • Navy Proud

        oops sorry Andy

        January 17, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
      • The Speller

        Typos are random, using the same mis-spelling in the same post equates to not knowing how to correctly spell a word.

        January 17, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
      • Navy Proud

        I suggest a more sinister plot, the idea that fried and greasy food is a friend for the ride home on the subway. I'll look at this "food" but not at people.

        January 17, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
      • emily

        @The Speller – - Really? Well then, perhaps you should consider properly spelling "misspelled" – which, technically, should not include the dash. Pompous a$$ !!!

        January 17, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
      • Erin

        I'm sorry that my dyslexia has ruined your experience reading these comments.

        January 18, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  22. Truth

    Truth be told (no pun)...I never even liked making eye contact with anyone in the subway. You just never know who is not wrapped too tightly. I am one of those anonymous folks who interacts as little as possible.

    January 17, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Queen of Everything@Truth

      And I am one of those people who strike up a conversation with complete strangers at a drop of the hat.

      January 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
      • Bert

        I am one of those people who's too shy to strike up a conversation with a stranger (unless it's a tourist who seems lost), but really enjoys when someone else strikes up a conversation with me.

        January 17, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
      • Joe Fromaggio

        I just dropped my hat.

        January 17, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
      • Queen of Everything@Joe

        Um, you might want to pick your hat up. These floors are filthy!

        January 18, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  23. Queen of Everything@Kat and SLT

    So which one of you lost the bet to dress up like a chicken in the subway?

    January 17, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      I found that while looking through the CNN Images archive! It's someone who works at American Morning.

      January 17, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
      • Queen of Everything@Kat

        Wow. I bet that was one internship to remember!

        January 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  24. Donna Eddington

    I totally AGREE...WHY does anyone want to eat in one of the most disgustingly dirtiest places on earth the subway! I have an additional complaint about chicken in NY...why is it that there are chicken bones all over the streets when there is a perfectly good trash can at every corner. I never see anyone eating the chicken while walking down the street...just the bones, unlike the subway...where I do see people eating food and yes chicken. So how does it get there? Do the people (I assume a person left the bones on the street) realize that if a dog eats the chicken bones it could splinter and they could choke and die.
    I say folks should eat in restaurants or at home, and if eating out side, like on a park bench...clean up after yourself.

    January 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • emily

      Where are you walking aroundin New York that you constantly spot chicken bones? I've never seen any one the streets – except IN the trash cans!!

      January 17, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
      • billythebigbone

        she must be walking around hells kitchen LOL

        January 17, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
      • No Bones about it

        I am constantly tripping over old chicken bones too. Where do they come from? Why do people drop them as they walk like they're used gum wrappers. Who needs to eat chicken so urgently that it's done while walking?? And I'm totally talking Midtown near Penn Station. My neighborhood. Chicken bone graveyard.

        Seems to be way worse first thing in the morning. I guess everyone who goes out drinking at night stumbles home while eating chicken and throwing the bones on the ground. Baffles the mind a bit.

        January 17, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
      • Chris

        Uh, you obviously haven't spent much time in China Town....I have a business in China Town and during the summer I find chicken bones, fish bones, rib bones, noodle cartons, and mystery samplings. Come on down to Elizabeth Street and I'll show you!

        January 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • kittano

      Does anyone else kind of want to hear the story of the self soiling stockbroker???

      January 17, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • c4man

      Why live there either?

      January 17, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
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