NEW YORK CITY’S subway riders can handle panhandlers, rats and tuneless street musicians. But eating spaghetti in a crowded subway car? Well, that’s just going too far, apparently.
A video going viral on YouTube – which shows New Yorkers brawling over a passenger’s right to nosh noodles on the subway – has ignited a debate about what people should and shouldn’t do in the USA’s largest mass transit system.
The video, posted online anonymously, picks up mid-argument, as a woman twirls onto her fork spaghetti from a takeout container and a passenger across the aisle chides her.
“What kind of animals eat on the train like that?” says the woman across the aisle.
The diner snaps back with an epithet, and the exchange quickly degenerates into a fistfight.
“Chill out!” shouts a man as he tries to pull apart the two combatants.
The video has touched a nerve in a stressed-out city where the commutes are difficult and no perceived slight goes undocumented, thanks to mobile phone video cameras.
The YouTube comments on the video see users debate the smell and the spilling of subterranean snackers. One contributor mixed video of the fight with scenes from the violent 1983 Al Pacino crime drama Scarface.
Some New York commuters called for a subway system ban on food, like the ones enforced in Washington, San Francisco and other cities. The Port Authority Trans-Hudson trains, which run between New York and New Jersey, already prohibit eating.
“I think it’s nasty when people eat,” said Sam Ramos, as he rode a 5 train to the Bronx. “They should go somewhere else.”
But at the other end of the car, John Augustine dug into a cup of chili and said people should mind their own business.
“People will fight about all kinds of things,” Augustine said. “Are we going to legislate against every one of them?”
Littering, playing loud music and smoking are prohibited in the subway system. On Wednesday, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the city’s subway and bus system, said police have bigger problems to deal with than patrolling the trains for chowhounds, too.
“We all have a responsibility to treat our subway system and our fellow riders with respect,” chairman Jay Walder said. “This is a system that carries 5 million people a day, and I’m not sure that a ban on food is really practical or enforceable.”
Some riders say the underground dining is just part of New York, where a dose of weirdness comes free with every $2.50 subway fare.
Others wondered if the spaghetti scuffle was staged. Most have seen much worse violators of etiquette than the noodle-nosher in the video, said subway rider Shash Lachhman.
“I once saw somebody eating barbecued chicken with no napkins,” Lachhman said. “But I still don’t think you need a rule against it.”