My local supermarket has the required handicapped parking spaces in front of the store, but it also has “Customer With Child” parking, a convenience that has lately been the source of a few parking lot disagreements. Patrons of the store don’t seem to be quite so clear on what the sign means. Is it for customers with young children only? Are expectant mothers allowed to use those spots? What about patrons who leave their children in the car while they run in for “just one thing”? And patrons who merely pull in to stop there while another passenger runs in?
My commute this morning was more chaotic than normal due to a fire that destroyed a switching station at a major hub on the Long Island Rail Road. The fire happened around midday yesterday and brought the commuter rail system to a screeching halt—with no service into or out of Manhattan except on one line for most of the day. I was fortunate to have missed the mayhem of yesterday's evening commute because I wasn't feeling well, and spent my day huddled on the sofa watching bad television, but the residual effects were strong today. Still, it was an opportunity to see how commuters adapt in these circumstances.
Are we losing our sense of social appropriateness? Or are transgressions more exaggerated now that we interact more frequently in the digital space where important social cues tend to be missing? Read on below the jump for an ethnographic account of my my run-in with an older man who just needed someone to talk to.
In a city that values personal space, we sure spend a lot of time in close contact with one another, particularly on mass transit. I personally will only board a packed subway car if I am running late and have to get somewhere immediately, otherwise, I'm perfectly content to scope out the platform, note where the doors open, and wait for the next train (this behavior makes me a camper, as we will discuss shortly)—if I have learned anything traveling via mass transit, it's that there is always another train.