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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Aspiring Rebel

In a city as large as New York, we are blessed with many nerds and a number of obsessed New Yorkers with a passion for the minutiae of city life. I say blessed, because how else would you learn about the horrors of certain trains using mixed fonts in the Do Not Lean on Door signs? The primary font in the subway system is Helvetica - see Train of Thought, my story of June 9, 2010, about subway fonts and other obsessions, such as H I K O P T U X Y.

It was noticed by some, however, that there were a number of trains where signs were actually using a mixture of fonts. Apparently, the possible dangers of falling out of trains or any other obvious reasons for not leaning on (and blocking) subway doors is secondary to the nuances of typography. In a 2009 Gothamist article about this discovery, a war of words in the comments section reveals this gem:

I noticed these when the R160s were new. I wanted to take my copy of Massimo Vignelli's 1970 New York City Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual and thwack someone over the head with it, but that wouldn't be a good idea since I might damage a valuable book.

Regulations like Do Not Lean on Door mean very little in New York City. Often, all available seating is taken and with trains lurching, leaning, and stopping abruptly, riders who are standing need to stabilize themselves. Holding onto vertical or overhead poles for extended periods is tiring. Leaning against exit doors becomes a preferred resting spot for many, with each individual door just right for one person. The eight doors (4 pairs per car) become coveted spots.

Like jaywalking, these regulations are virtually never enforced. The signs do provide many functions however - a good opportunity for study of fonts, a record of unenforced policies, a clean surface to lean against, a chance to display requisite New York City Street Cred and attitude, and an opportunity for the less courageous for an act of defiance which will assuredly go unpunished. A sign and siren for the amateur lawbreaker and Aspiring Rebel :)


Beatrice B. said...

hahahaha love that so so much!

Thérèse said...

It reminds me of the only Italian group of words that I remember for as long as I can remember being able to read and learn "e pericoloso sporgersi" in trains...

Leslie said...

You know I love everything about this posting, and all the links!! For a long time I did feel a bit like a rebel as I disobeyed that 'law' written on all the doors. But I've not heard one instance, in all my years, about the doors opening by mistake and an unlucky individual subjected to harm.
Sometimes I even walk between the cars when the train is moving (omg), but only if there's no cop in sight...I do so love to misbehave.

Chicken Underwear said...

Thanks Brian.

You just reminded the NYPD that there is a law that they are non enforcing that they could. Now they will be doing this all the time to collect $50 from low hanging fruit or for the excuse to "warrant check" those they profile.

Brian Dubé said...

Beatrice B, Thérèse - tx!
Leslie - I have often walked between cars also.

Chicken Underwear - Don't worry. NYPD is never going to bother with this. They rarely enforce anything like this., Plus, crowded trains NECESSITATE this behavior anyway. And who will make the judgement as to whether someone was actually leaning on the door or only near it? If the sign said Do Not Stand In Front of the Door, maybe. But they don't, because crowds would make this impossible. Plus, the police here are not interested in debating the nuances of leaning versus proximity, not to mention that they are rarely present in the trains :)