8 Ways to Occupy Your Eyes on the Subway by M.Pitter


Regardless of the city in which you find yourself, whether or not you keep your ears plugged and dressed with music, this list may be applied to most (if not, all) of the subterranean mass transit systems of this planet.

credit: M.Pitter/In Parentheses
credit: M.Pitter/In Parentheses

On the train, you can:

1. Look directly at other passengers: When boarding the train, you find yourself in a capsule where, just like you, other people have been collected to be delivered to some part or another in the city. While in transit, suspended between departure and arrival, idle minds and bodies may endeavor to act upon growing curiosities via the eyes, profiling other passengers, making effortless guesses about their pasts and futures. Whether one wants to conduct live social experiments or share some optical romance with that good-looking someone, a passenger’s personal space will inevitably be breached. This brief intrusion into a person’s life lasts as long as the intruder can disguise his or her penetration with the seemingly accidental drift of the head or the eye or maybe the pretend vigilance regarding some faraway phenomena. But, once the subjects of your observation return gazes, you may want to look away and occupy yourself with the following options on this list. Who knows how a random person will handle a blatant stare? Why couldn’t it be lethal?

2. Look into Empty Space: You could be the innocent bystander keeping your eyes safely and respectfully out of the range of anyone else’s line of sight. Minding your own business essentially minimizes any sort of trans-verbal interaction between you and other passengers. But blending in so well with the train’s interior requires one to stare at the ground, or the doors, the intersection of the wall and the ceiling, random objects. Doing this, I suppose that you could internalize any brain activity that you may have or transcend. Go ahead and dip yourself into thought however connected or detached it may be to the present situation. Think about your life or how fast the train is going. The time should pass swimmingly.

3. Browse the contents on your mobile device: As many of us today carry smart phones in our pockets, there is always the opportunity to whip it out! and gather any time-absorbing information that we may want. Of course, in a moving subway train, there is no service or internet access. So those of us looking into our cellular phones cannot be texting and/or communicating with the outside world. Anything from browsing old pictures, playing addicting micro-video games to choosing the next song, writing small memos or engaging in any of the activities that today’s ‘apps’ provide — these practices characterize the mobile-device-browsing-experience. But as always this becomes trite and eventually bothersome to the eyes.

4. Read: Whether it be the Wall Street Journal, a piece of fiction or nonfiction, read it; nurture the eyes, the intellect and the vocabulary. But you’d also be missing out on the events unfolding on the subway right before your eyes. Reading involves the stimulation of mental and emotional sensors causing the reader’s transmittance into a certain place and time with characters and situations. But on the train, such things are available and in more dimensions.

credit: M.Pitter/In Parentheses
credit: M.Pitter/In Parentheses

5. Look through the end window into the next train-car: The doors at either ends of the train-car allow for a view into the car ahead of or behind the train-car that you are in. Looking here gives an interesting view into a time and place that you may never enter. You see humans from a distance interacting, laughing, sleeping, maybe staring back at you!, reading, rocking to the movements of the train. As you peer into the next car, you may begin to notice that with this perspective, you could see the train in front of you moving relative to the movement of the train-car in which you are sitting. This reminds you that you are not merely sitting in a moving room, you are in a vehicle, a locomotive, a vessel slithering through the city tunnels.

6. Scan the Advertisements: Amuse yourself with modern aesthetics and the marketing ploys of the twenty-first century. The jingles and the catchy phrases – with their font, font size, humor, their subtle observance of pop culture – give homage to the ethos of the present day. They are psychologically careful in their methods of engaging with passengers. Some advertisements span entire cars: Budweiser, Jack Daniels, Tropicana, Uniqlo. Notice the near silly wit employed to play to our supposed needs and wants. And then there are also the ads calling attention to plastic surgeons for dogs, work-related-accident-lawyers, English as a second language agencies and the motorcycle technician schools et cetera.

7. Look at yourself: If you happen to be sitting in front of the doors or the windows, you may notice that the blackness of the tunnels outside provides you with reflection. If you happen to be the vain type, indulge. Check yourself out, check out your environment, check out this live snapshot in time.

8. Close your eyes: Whether you want to sleep, meditate, dive further into your music, daydream, stare at the interior of the eyelids, or just simply rest your eyes, close your eyes. But you run the risk of missing your stop, especially if you are traveling late in the night or very early in the morning.

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