Entitlement on the subway

I’ve heard a lot of strange things on the subway. This morning was something new though. A short lady with reddish-brown hair, I’d guess between age 50 and 60, apparently wasn’t able to get on the train as fast as she’d have liked. She voiced her opinion of the man–the cause of the delay–for all to hear (I missed part of it due to my in-ear headphones): “… and you’re on your phone texting! We all deserve to walk on the train when we want to!”

I guess she didn’t realize I deserve to stand quietly on the train without anyone else saying anything. Oh wait, that’s just as absurd.

She rattled on for some time, but I stopped paying attention so I could write down what I’d heard her say. The man said something I couldn’t hear. The woman in front of me, whose face was about 18 inches from mine (it’s only awkward if you look at each other), shook her head in amazement.

Over 5 million people ride the subway on an average weekday.

This lady probably lives here in the city. I do not doubt she is a smart, rational human being. I do not know what happened to her this morning. Maybe she nearly got hit by a bus. Maybe the man really was rude. I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s completely absurd to claim any sort of entitlement concerning when you get to walk on a semi-crowded train.

The subway can be a pretty stressful place, especially during the morning rush hour. It’s not uncommon to see someone squeeze in a crowded train, making other people more uncomfortable (unless you like playing sardines with strangers!), and then look all put out when someone else does the same thing behind them.

I have nothing against the lady on the train this morning. I know nothing of her other than that she has moments of weakness just like the rest of us do. We’ve all done and said things we’ve regretted. What bothered me this morning was not her, but the sense of entitlement she expressed–a sense of entitlement you, as I, have experienced from time to time.

The majority of the people you meet are smart, rational people. You are a smart, rational person. I, too, like to think I am smart and rational. So why does this happen to smart, rational people? Why does this happen to you? Are there things we can do to guard against this sort of thing? I’m interested in what you have to say.

What helps me stay rational in stressful moments (though I often fail) is to consciously remember that everyone around me is, in fact, a living, breathing person. It works even better when I take it a step further and remember that everyone around me is a son or daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves them.

If, however, you’re feeling particularly upset and have no desire to feel happy feelings about anyone I suggest you think of everyone else as vampires. Look each person in the eye and tell them they’re a vampire. Then, if you’re on a train, get off at the next stop so you can feel stupid all by yourself. After you’ve felt stupid for a few minutes walk up to a stranger and tell them they look nice today.

New York, Subway


  1. Lydia Thanks for those words of affirmation. I am a smart rational human being. And the subway is crazy at times. Its always interesting to see people give each other awkward glances when one person gets on and acts out of the social norm.
  2. Mom I liked that you mentioned you did not know what happened to that lady today. We surely do not know what makes people do what they do any day. I think it’s best to “assume nobility of intent.” That probably doesn’t apply in the situation with that lady and her sense of entitlement, but in other situations when we are offended or tempted to be offended, we can give the benefit of the doubt, or “assume nobility of intent.” And you can do that even as you read this… I realize it probably isn’t cool a mom mom to leave a comment on a blog. You’ll just have to assume I meant well. I do. xx
  3. Ryan What isn’t cool about someone’s mom commenting on their blog? Maybe if you were telling embarrassing stories…