10 Commandments of Riding SEPTA in a Heat Wave

Thou shalt reduce thine own personal stinkiness.


When Martha and the Vandellas sang, “It’s like a heatwave, burning in my heart,” they weren’t talking about Philadelphia in July. In Philadelphia, the heat waves tend to burn every where except our hearts: On the sidewalks, on our skin and in the crowded public corridors of city living. Nowhere is this more evident than on public transit. Frequent commuters know that the rules of riding SEPTA are often unspoken, but they hang in the air even when the humidity level drops below 98 percent. These rules, like our affection for the Phillies, change seasonally. (For the winter dos and don’ts, click here.)

Here, a rundown of how to keep your commute peaceful and, hopefully, just a little bit less gross:

• Commuter Etiquette Rule No. 1: Thou shalt wear deodorant.

This is really one of those commandments you should be following in life, as well as while commuting, but it bears explanation: If you’re sweating like it’s going out of style, at least it should smell powder fresh.

• Commuter Etiquette Rule No. 2: Thou shalt not hold the overhead bar whilst wearing a tank top.

No matter how tall you are, there is always someone whose face might be armpit height. Do unto others and all that jazz. In other words: Don’t make anyone put their face anywhere near your pits.

• Commuter Etiquette Rule No. 3: Thou shalt concede the shady platform spots to the very old and the very young.

While waiting for a train on an outdoor platform, many will try to find the shadiest spot to stand. It’s a timing game—you want to get there after the most recent train has passed, but before the next round of commuters have arrived. But all bets are off if an elderly person or a parent with a tiny baby show up. Nobody wants to be responsible for giving a baby sunburn. Not even Satan.

• Commuter Etiquette Rule No. 4: Thou shalt not sit near another person unless absolutely necessary.

In the winter, there are standard rules of when and where to sit. However, things change in extreme heat when we are all sticky and smelly and generally pretty gross. When this happens, you should not sit next to another human being unless absolutely necessary. Or at the very least, until you’ve aired out enough to stop actively sweating.

• Commuter Etiquette Rule No. 5: Thou shalt not eff up our all-night subways.

Lookin’ at you, flashmobbers.

• Commuter Etiquette Rule No. 6: Thou shalt not eat hot food on public transit.

This is really an all-the-time rule, but it’s more important during heat wave. The combination of multiple body odors and French fries seems like the sort of thing that should be reserved for chemical weapons.

• Commuter Etiquette Rule No. 7: Thou shalt not gratuitously fan oneself.

To paraphrase every grade school teacher anyone has ever had: It just makes you hotter! Also, you look like a doofus.

• Commuter Etiquette Rule No. 8: Thou shalt be cognizant of your sweat trail.

This means: If you have a sweaty back, please do not lean against the glass by the back door. No one wants to see that.

• Commuter Etiquette Rule No. 9: Thou shalt wear all your clothes.

Riding public transit is similar to entering a Dunkin Donuts: No shirt, no shoes, no service.

• Commuter Etiquette Rule No. 10: Thou shalt not talk loudly about the weather.

Really? You’re hot. No way!


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