Thursday, October 13, 2011

Guests Guide to NYC: How to Hail a Cab & How to Ride the Subway

How to Ride the Subway

1. Have your metrocard out & ready before approaching the turnstile (card in right hand, black strip facing in).

2. Swipe at a speed that says "confident but casual".  Too fast and you'll get a "please swipe again" message or a "please swipe again at this turnstile" (which means your card has been charged, so don't try to go through a different gate.  Rest assured a better swipe will yeild success).

3.  Subway Etiquette:
a.  Let passengers exit the train before entering
b. Do not wrap your arm around, lean against or rest your head on an pole.  Poles hogging is generally frowned upon unless you're topless.
d. Whenever you are in a confined space, like the subway or an elevator, imagine that you and your fellow passengers are opposing magnets, happiest when each rider is in a position of equal and opposing distances from one another, respectively.  Let's say, for example, you cram yourself on a packed train and are rubbing arms with the person next to you, but at the next stop there is a mass exodus that frees up the standing space on the train.  You or your fellow arm rubber is expected to immediately move away from the other into the free space, the person responsible for moving being one closer to the newly opened gap.

4. Strange behavior is expected, from someone practicing ukulele to a train full of people in their underwear.  Embrace the quirky with a smile or nod if desired and avoid the crazies at all costs. 

5. Upon exiting the train, don't fret too much over which staircase exit is the correct one.  Once on the street, move to the side of the walkway before stopping to get your bearings.

How To Hail A Cab
Emme Rossum, bored cab hailer (

1. Standing just in the street a few steps off of the curb, arm outstretched at a 45 degree angle in the general direction of oncoming traffic.  Up the New York quotient with a two-finger stretch. 

2.  Do your best impression of a fifteen year old boy two hours into a family portait session - look bored and under no circumstance shall you smile.

3. Look at the placard on the top of the cab - if only middle section with the cab's identification number is illuminated, it's available.  If all the lights are off, it's taken, and if the two outer sections are illuminated, the cab is off duty (he may still swing by and ask where you're going to make an extra buck on his way back to the garage, but he'll only pick you up if your destination is on his way.  Don't take it personally.).

4. Don't tell the cabby where you're going until you're inside the cab with the door shut.  Even though it's prohibited, cabbies will sometimes pull away if you say you're going to an inconvenient location before you're squarely in the cab. 

5. Give the cabby an intersection, not a specific address, with your desired street or avenue listed first, cross streets or intersection second ("44th between 5th and 6th" means 44th Street between 5th & 6th Avenues or "Fifth Ave and 10th" being Fifth Avenue at the corner of 10th Street).

6.  When you're close to your destination, your cabby will mumble something.  He's probably asking you "near corner, far corner" or "near side, far side", meaning "Shall I drop you off before the intersection ("near corner") or shall I drive through the intersection and then drop you off ("far corner")?"  "Near side" is whichever curb is closest to the lane you're driving in, "far side" is if your cabbie has to weave across lanes of traffic to drop you on the other side of the street (there are lots of one way avenues in the city). 

7.  Whether paying by cash or card, always leave a tip.  Everyone is different, but I always tip at least 20%, sometimes more if it's a smaller fare.  Thank the cabby and wish him a nice day.  And go ahead, you're allowed to smile now.

Insider tips: Using Larry David's term, it's rude to "upstream" someone, meaning placing yourself closer to oncoming traffic than someone else who is also trying to hail a cab in your vicinity.  Just like on the subway, older citizens and pregnant ladies (apparently sometimes one in the same in New York) take precedence. 

Still feel unsure?  Check out the photos below of celebrities hailing cabs.  See any smiles?  Didn't think so.

Blake Lively does it while on the phone (
Cameron does it with her hand in her pocket (

Giselle hunts for an open cab (

Whitney, sweetie, I'm going to cut you some slack because we all know you're from California, but a few things.  One, you're using the wrong arm (it should be the arm closest to the street) two, your 90 degree arm angle is inching dangerously close to Hail Hitler territory.  And three, your leggings are fierce. (

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