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New Yorkers love to kvetch, and the MTA certainly provides them with plenty of opportunities. The subway may be a marvel of engineering, whisking 5.5 million riders between 468 stations, but being confined to a metal tube with strangers inevitably leads to tension and conflicts. Ask any commuter what irritates them about the subway, and you’re likely to hear that what they loathe most — apart from the inevitable delays — are the quirks of their fellow riders.
Joe Navarro, a former FBI agent and body language expert — his book, What Every Body is Saying, is a primer on non-verbal communication — says this annoyance is expected. "Any time we're in a smaller environment with strangers, we behave differently," he explains. "There’s an ancient part of the brain already aroused and on the defensive because of the close proximity of the subway.”
Do all our bodies, then, speak essentially the same language? Do even the most offensive gestures have a universality we can learn to interpret? Here, we break down the eight most classic subway poses, what they mean, and how you can respond.