Recently, Daily Intelligencer’s Dan Amira explained the basics of subway seat priority etiquette : “Obviously you should get up for a pregnant woman, an elderly or frail person, a young child, or an injured or handicapped person.” Having been a very pregnant person on the subway within the last year, I can attest to the fact that lots of New Yorkers don't agree with Amira on that first point. These ungallant commuters are perfectly happy to ignore gestating ladies hovering over them while they beat that 97th level of Candy Crush.
Other preggos have written about the lack of subway chivalry before, but I'd like to break it down by subway line. I moved to Prospect Heights when in the middle of my pregnancy and I was working freelance. Since I wasn't commuting to the same place every day and I lived next to the Atlantic Ave.-Barclay's Center hub, I had the unique pleasure of riding nearly every train while very visibly with child.
Herewith, an unscientific, semi-exhaustive, pregnant lady’s guide to the MTA:
If I took the A or the C during rush hour, I was always smooshed and I was offered a seat maybe half the time. When I had to stand, I recall a few side-eyes because I was unintentionally crowding other straphangers with my belly. The designer Elizabeth Carey Smith did her own preggo subway experiment which included the E; she was commuting from Greenpoint to the Upper East Side daily while pregnant and found that E train riders are awful.
Without fail, someone always offered me a seat on the B and the D. It might be because they were not as packed as the A and C trains, or it might be because there were a lot of elderly ladies on the B and D trains. Elderly ladies: your best bet as a pregnant subway rider. I always felt mildly guilty taking a seat from an old lady, but my third-trimester heartburn was so bad that I felt like my esophagus was going to burst out of my chest like that scene in Alien. So I would take the seat anyway.
I can't vouch for the R, but the N and the Q were similar to the B and D; full of nice old ladies. Also: teenage boys. They always gave up their seats for me. Memorably, an adorable kid with a neck tattoo offered me his seat one time when I got on a Q train at Union Square. I am pretty sure he was trying to impress the girl he was with, but he still gets full points for the gesture.
I can't recall taking the 4 or 5. Whenever I took the 6, which I did to get to my obstetrician, it was always midday, so seats were open. Elizabeth Carey Smith also had a great experience on the 6: She was given a seat 100 percent of the time.
I avoid taking the G even when not pregnant, so I never ended up on the line with a bun in the oven. But Carey Smith found that the G is full of jerks, the L is less awful than you'd think, and the M is for meh when it comes to being nice to pregnant ladies.
I only took the F once while I was super pregnant, and it was the worst. None of the Park Slope dads or book editors looked up from their copies of The New Yorker for a second to even consider offering me a seat. I wanted to strangle them all with their Strand tote bags.
These were the trains I took the most, and they are possibly worse than the F. I was offered a seat about 20 percent of the time while extremely pregnant. Once, the door of a 2 train opened up at Atlantic Avenue and we all waited patiently as passengers filed out of the subway. A woman standing next to me who looked to be in her forties or fifties caught my eye. She looked down at my stomach, and then looked into the train. I followed her gaze, and soon we were both looking at the single empty seat in the car. The second people stopped coming out of the train, we started to board at the same time. She elbowed me out of the way so that she could get that open seat.
On one hand, I was impressed with her tenacity. She was not going to let some knocked-up broad take the seat that was rightfully hers! On the other hand: She did elbow me right in the stomach. Not cool, lady.