In college I was told that education is the “great equalizer.” Supposedly education puts everyone on the same playing field so that we can all communicate effectively, compete fairly for jobs, and figure out what time two trains traveling in opposite directions will pass each other. Horace Mann, the great American education reformer, politician, father of modern American schools, and all-around dreamer, said that “Education…is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery.” Mann thought a free education that aimed to train ‘social efficiency,’ civic morals, and charisma was far more valuable than students focusing on… books, knowledge, and facts. Most of the citizens we see today are products of Mann’s reformation and his dreamtopian American education system.
The MTA has begun piggy backing off of our education system. The MTA is beginning to ramp up its efforts to bestow some civic morals on its patrons with their ads advising against “man-spreading,” which is good because it does bring up a sensitive subject: testicles. The MTA needs to take it one body part further though, and yes I’m talking about the derrière. People often take up an entire hand pole with their backside as if they are Yogi the Bear scratching those hard to reach places. Do we really need to convince the public to not spread their butt cheeks and plant their asses where your hand goes? That should have been Mr. Mann’s first rule in his civic morals class: “Don’t put your anus where other’s hands go. Please.” It’s clear that Mann’s ‘great equalizer,’ education, has not effectively taught the charisma and morals he had dreamt it would. I hope it’s because students are spending their time acquiring book smarts and remembering facts.
Every New Yorker knows that the subway is truly the “great equalizer.” Because it doesn’t matter how much money you make, who you know, how smart you are, etc., we all ride the subway, and we all have to put up with the same shortcomings that go along with it. Because what does matter is that no one wants to pay $17 to take a poorly driven cab across the Manhattan Bridge. Also, nobody wants to sit in downtown traffic. Sitting in downtown traffic will fluster anyone before they get in line to talk to the host to get on the wait list to eat a $28 burger.
The subway puts you outside of your comfort zone; it’s similar to riding coach in a commercial airplane. The MTA hasn’t stooped so low as to begin charging extra for common, decent amenities: comfortable seats are free on the subway, sturdy poles are free, and there are moist towelettes everywhere on the subway. Everyone rides coach on the subway, but the moody flight attendants aren’t present to enforce the rules. Luckily, when riding the subway, there are plenty of models showing us how to not act, and this humanizing, educational ride is what makes New York, New York New York, New York.