The other day, I was amazed to see an entire train car of passengers watching with rapt attention a free-style rapper perform in the center of a green-line car. Passengers were turned in their seat, leaning to see around people, and they almost all applauded him when he was finished.
That would never happen on the NYC subway.
This guy wasn’t too bad, but he wasn’t amazing or anything. I have seen entire mariachi bands, dressed to the nines, perform flawlessly on the subway in NYC and people don’t even look up from their iphones. I have seen lovely renditions of ballads performed while people gave the singer death-stares for blocking the doors.
As a former NYer, I found the change startling, somewhat charming, but a little awkward?
The other big difference, which I have come to loathe, is the aggressive politeness of Montrealers in giving up their seat for a person carrying a baby (both pre and post-natal). You may politely refuse to take the seat several times and they may keep insisting. You may refuse a seat from one person only to have the person next to them decided maybe you prefer the view from their angle and offer theirs. People will walk halfway down a car just to point out an empty seat at the other end for you. If you so much as eye a nearby seat and you are carrying a kid, people will scramble to clear out of it for you. And even if you are happily standing in a crowded car, someone will be tugging on your sleeve to tell you they are happy to give you a seat that you have no chance to actually get to among the bodies.
I do not miss the “stand clear of the closing doors, please” recording. It’s nice that they have very few announcements here.
My daughter loves riding the subway, she likes going onto the train herself and holding onto the post by herself. She likes finding people to wave to. Most of the passengers think this is positively adorable. Even when she’s in the way. I’m pretty sure she would have been run down in NYC by now. I get a little worried at the big transfer stops when it’s busy that someone won’t see her down there, so I’ll usually pick her up. But people are mostly cautious and not that pushy. The last time we rode the train in NYC, someone totally body checked her into a post. She was 8 months old. I’m not going to postulate about the virtues of Canadian politeness because I think the generalization is not always true, but at least in this case, the atmosphere is a bit more laid-back.
Last, since the Montreal subway shuts down every night and the system is newer, the trains are a bit cleaner, a bit more timely, and have less glitches in service. The bad part? The subway shuts down! Every night!
Blows my mind.