Tech. Science. Culture.
We may earn a commission from links on this page

Cell Service on the Subway Is a Good Thing, So Stop Your Damn Whining

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Last week, we learned that New York City's famed subway system would get texting, talking and internet, beginning a gradual cell service rollout across its stations, like the rest of the modern world. Many people are upset by this proposition. Those people need to shut up, please.

The comments on the NYT's post say it all:

God deliver us!

That's it, my life is officially over....there's no escape!

i think all concerned citizens should agree that if they see anyone talking on their phone on a platform, they'll snatch the phone, stomp on it, and kick it onto the tracks.


A small sampling, but indicative of a city that does not want to hear your conversations while commuting. Their dismay lies in the shattering of the silent sanctity of the train station—a place of serenity that'll be forever stained by people talking, for the first time.


Is that a joke?

The New York Subway, like any mass transit system, is a bouillabaisse of urban social messiness. It's noisy as hell—quaking old trains on even older tracks, musicians, beeps, leaking headphones, blaring PA messages, and, of course, a shit-ton of people all rushing to get around. The subway in every town is chaotic! And of course, it's part of what makes living in a city—any city—so rich and interesting. So to think adding phone conversations will cause any appreciable annoyance—as if this is the first time human beings are going to be speaking out loud down there—is ridiculous. A sonic drip in a gurgling pot of scalding water.


But more importantly, we all stand to gain from subterranean 3G. Spotify on your morning commute? Yes, please. Texting friends to let them know you're running late, preventing confusion and a blowout fight as soon as you resurface? I'd like that. Knowing you can always ring 911 should something go awry? A must. Having, oh, I don't know, the entire internet available for your reading pleasure to pass the time on a long trip? Wonderful.

I could go on, but you already know how you love to use your smartphone. I don't have to tell you the nice things you can do with a 3G connection. You do them on the bus, in the airport, on the sidewalk, in lobbies, elevators, parks, coffee shops, and every other nook of civilization. People do these things in subways around the world, and yet, society doesn't collapse into a riot of bleeding ears and commuters clawing at each other with sharpened iPhones. Our country's subways are just one more long, tube-y nook—and a glaring gap on the map of how we can enjoy our things and each other. If you've always appreciated that gap, enjoyed being unavailable for once, I say four words: "airplane mode," and "power button." Or, short of that, just turn up the volume slightly on the MP3 player you're listening to anyway.


Photo: Ed Yourdon

You can keep up with Sam Biddle, the author of this post, on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.