1) Give your seat to pregnant ladies and the elderly

2) Let people exit before getting on (see last week’s post)

3) No eye contact

Everyone who lives in New York City knows the rules to the subway (listed above), but in truth, rule #3 is sometimes broken – either accidentally or on purpose. This week I’m curious – why do we look into people’s eyes? Why does it feel different from looking at their leg, or arm? Are our eyes private – only to be looked at by friends and people we trust? Maybe looking into someone’s eyes allows us to see into their souls? Maybe the reason we do it is just because it allows us to see someone’s facial expressions, which our brains are especially tuned to read (that’s why we put faces on our currency, we’re incredibly perceptive to facial detail).

Maybe the reason we sneak glances with strangers on the subway is because humans inherently need connections – and in a city that can be dehumanizing, sharing a glance with a stranger allows us for a fleeting moment to have a connection – and share a moment with another person.

I’ve been thinking about it all week – I think the real reason we look people in the eyes isn’t because there is something special about eyes, but rather it’s because when we’re looking them in the eye we can see that they’re looking back – and that is what’s comforting.

The Rules of the Subway