Life and Death on the MTA

Is there an emoji for projectile vomit? Last week, in honor of our weeklong deep dive into our love-hate relationship with the New York subway, we asked readers to submit their very best MTA stories, and because subway agony can be difficult to fully express in words alone, we also gave them the option of tagging a story-appropriate emoticon.

Predictably, the greatest number of stories dealt with bodily functions, in all their awfulness:

😷 / 💩:

It was 7:30 am, I got off the train at 36 ave in Queens to go to work and there was a lady on the platform, still in her party clothes, cheeks parted, peeing and laughing as a few of us got off the train... Great way to start the day


I was riding the R train uptown in Brooklyn mid-morning on a Saturday. There weren't many people on the train, but it wasn't empty. I was sitting across from a normal-looking man. He took floss out and began to floss his teeth. Kinda gross, but not a huge deal. But then, he LICKED THE FLOSS CLEAN AND PUT IT BACK IN HIS POCKET. So disgusting.

— @jesshmarketing


Monday morning rush hour, I'm on a packed six train headed downtown. I hear a splatter behind me and everyone starts to move away. A woman threw up down my back, in my hair, down my jeans and into my open shoes. I had to wait till the next stop and jump in a cab back up to my apartment with STRANGER BARF all over me. Since it was now past rush hour I took my clothes off in the hallway outside my apartment, put it in a garbage bag, showered, changed and went back to work. I'm still unclean.


On a crowded 3 train, a strange woman projectile vomited onto myself and the woman (IN A WHITE COAT) standing next to me. Before I even had a chance to react, she bolted out the door and the train continued on to the next stop. Some kind gentleman gave us tissue paper out of his Macy's shopping bag in an attempt to help. The entire experience is burned in my memory, so I've felt fairly equipped to handle anything ever since.

— @lady_dayna

Including some truly harrowing encounters:

😭 / 😖:

F train in Brooklyn, morning rush. I choose a less crowded car (always risky). There is a big gap in the middle of the car. I see a man lying on the floor, limbs splayed chalk-outline style. Everyone is standing around him. Finally, someone notices a police officer in the car and calls him over. The officer rouses the man and makes him stand as we arrive at Bergen Street. When the doors open, the officer shoves him out of the car, and steps back in for the rest of his commute!


I saw a dead body on the D train. Every day I would get on the train at Atlantic/Pacific at 2:24 PM to get to work by 3 p.m. for my evening shift at a news website. I got on the train one day and there was a homeless man, sleeping on a cart. He was draped over his things, and didn't move for the entire ride. The next day, I got on the train at the same time and there he was -- he hadn't moved in 24 hours.


I got on the 1 at 110th St heading downtown for a job interview. We come into the 86th street station but stop halfway. The train stays like that for the next 15 minutes causing everyone to get pretty irate. Then we hear a scream and realize: our train was on top of a person. The car goes silent, punctuated occasionally by the screams. Finally, EMTs arrive and we are directed down the train to an open door. Gothamist picked up the story, but I never found out what happened to the person.

And generalized frustration:


Took the train to Woodlawn and was on the first car with only one other person. This person approached me asking where Jerome Ave was. I pointed to the ground since the 4 line runs right above Jerome. He angrily muttered something under his breath. He then asked me for the time. I pointed to the digital clock. More angry muttering. He then asked me if I knew how to fight and I convinced him that I had a black belt. I have never fought anyone in my life, but he stopped talking to me after that.

— @John_Leinnon


I was 8 months pregnant with my first child and riding the jam-packed 6 train home to the UES. While trying to exit at 77th, waiting for all of the people in front of me to move. This woman behind me starts jamming her elbows into my back. I told her I was trying to move but had to wait for the people in front of me. She yelled "pregnant bitch" at me and shoved me out of the way. I'd like to say that's the rudest anyone has ever been on the 6 but it probably isn't...


I was pulling into Atlantic-Pacific (pre-Barclay) on the Q train late night and saw someone sitting on a bench at the track with a small fire on his shoulder. As soon as the doors opened, I ran over to him and tried smothering the fire with my jacket. Another passenger from my car followed up with a bottle of water and put out the flame. The guy who was burning was mad we had woken him up.

But, look, humanity isn’t all bad! Quite a few people have fallen in love while crushed against their fellow straphangers. And sometimes the subway can even be surprisingly, cinematically beautiful.

😀 / 😂 / 😍:

It was the nitty gritty 70's and I was on my way to school when I saw a man dressed very conservatively in a business suit and when I looked down he was wearing fishnet stockings and high heels. It was quite shocking and a perfect NY subway story.


seeing the most beautiful man i have ever seen going to my teen vogue internship. he looked like a cross between gabriel aubry x jamie dornan x dominic cooper wearing a plaid shirt, jeans and dirtied white converse hi-tops.


My long-spoken-for best friend and I fell in love while being forced into an embrace by a packed crowd on an L train under the East River. She was engaged several months later, and we can't tell anyone about it or even acknowledge it ourselves.


Almost 24 years ago, I met my husband on the Q train. There was a bomb scare at Hunter College and I couldn't take the 6 like I usually did. At 47-50 St, he got on and started talking. He asks me if I do temporary tattoos at the Limelight (its 1992), I say "no" and don't look at him. He then asks if I work at the Limelight. Nope.Third question is, "Do you like Industrial music?" Being a big Nine Inch Nails said yes. He gave me his phone number on the back of his bank statement. He had $7.48.

— @stephthisway


I was on the train when a mom and her son, who was clutching a red balloon, got on right as the doors were closing. As they ran onto the train, there was a collective gasp as the doors closed with the balloon trapped outside of the subway car. The train started moving, and surely the balloon was doomed. But in a purely magical only-in-NY moment, the red balloon made it to the next station and as the doors opened to free it, the entire train car burst into applause.

— @meganificent

Life and Death on the MTA