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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  • Jean Pennie

    Also, wearing cologne that smells like dead stink bugs … that should be outlawed all the time, but especially on a hot train car

    • Wria978

      just before I looked at the receipt ov $8130 , I
      didn’t believe that my sister woz like actualy bringing in money part-time from
      there pretty old laptop. . there aunts neighbour has been doing this 4 only
      about 22 months and at present repayed the mortgage on their appartment and
      bought themselves a Chrysler . see here C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

  • Merilyn Jackson

    just Puleeze stop wearing SPRAY deodorant! It’s worse than wearing none. Anyone nearby gags on your aura. Switch to unscented gel rub on. And do shower first. The deodorant won’t mask your smelly underarms if they aren’t clean to begin with.

  • Johnny Domino

    Wow, roll out the fall and spring versions and you got a gig until April.

  • Danny Ozark

    this is a very stupid story…this chick is acting as if most of septa’s riders care about etiquette. ..bizarre

    • laurakfalconer

      Jacqueline implied I’m taken by surprise that a mom can earn $8130 in 1 month
      on the computer . see post C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

  • Wria978

    my classmate’s aunt makes $68 every hour on the
    computer . She has been fired for 7 months but last month her paycheck was
    $15495 just working on the computer for a few hours. visit the site C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

  • Tonic

    Has this writer ever been on a SEPTA bus ride?

  • d7ana

    My favorites are:

    Commuter Etiquette Rule No. 1: Thou shalt wear deodorant. We have running water, antibacterial soaps, and deodorant. Please use before you go out in public. Tooth brushing and/or mouthwash use also recommended.

    Commuter Etiquette Rule No. 4: Thou shalt not sit near another person unless absolutely necessary. When there are plenty of seats, oh yes, please park elsewhere. Irritating to be brushed by someone else’s heated and wet body. Eeeewww.

    Commuter Etiquette Rule No. 9: Thou shalt wear all your clothes. And please make sure that the pants cover your bottom. Strangers do not want to see your butt crack. Don’t overestimate its appeal.

    Suggestion to combat funk although I am not sure of the etiquette of it: I carry a solid lemon air freshener. Discretely though. More subtle: carry a basket of fresh strawberries or fresh bread. As close to your nose as possible.