In your pre-caffeinated stupor this morning, you may have noticed messages from the MTA posted in your subway car or subway station. Had you been fully awake, it might have registered that these signs were, well, not quite right. Written in the lingo of an overtired MTA conductor and in the font of MTA notices, the signs provide helpful guidance on the finer points of subway etiquette. “Nail Clipping: Under no circumstance is the Subway the right place for this,” one sign begins. Another instructs passengers to “Keep your finger out of your nose. Please.”
The artist behind the signs is Jason Shelowitz, and the ten silk-screened signs are being put up on lines around the city this week. You can call it guerrilla art, but it’s more like guerrilla politesse: “I decided to focus on some sociological issues that many people have within the NYC subway system.” After years of discussing these problems with his family and friends, he decided to do something about it. He surveyed 100 people on their top pet peeves (not service-related) while riding the subway, narrowed the results down to the top ten, and rewrote them as a set of rules.
It’s not lost on Shelowitz that what he’s doing is, technically, illegal. “I like to think that the positive nature of the messages will keep me out of trouble,” Shelowitz said. “Also, I am using removable two-way tape, so they are not permanent, and leave no residue or marks behind.” All 400 silk-screened signs are literally up for grabs. “I encourage people to look out for them, and to take them before the MTA does,” Shelowitz said. “I’m not sure how much of a difference these will make, but so far, people seem to be enjoying them.”