The Most Disgusting Thing to Do in Philadelphia? Ride SEPTA

Vomit and feces and urine—oh my!

On Friday evening, SEPTA reached a deal with transit police to end the nine-day strike. Safety on public transit is great and all, but after what happened to me on the 48 bus this week, I’m less concerned with violence than I am with contracting a communicable disease.

On Tuesday afternoon, a child barfed on my feet while I was riding into Center City. No warning, no tears. Just a split second and several ounces of orange vomit all over the exposed tops of my feet. Once I stopped shrieking and wringing my hands, I got off the bus and darted into Liberty Place where I washed my feet in the sink of a public bathroom and then purchased new shoes. It was one of the grossest moments of my life.

What’s grosser: This is not the first time I’ve been involved in a puking incident on SEPTA—though this time I escaped without anyone else’s bodily fluids on my skin. I was riding the Regional Rail from Jenkintown to Temple when a teenager stood up and, like a scene from a horror movie, projectile vomited all over the seats in front of him while shaking his head back and forth. If memory serves me correctly, he covered four rows of passengers and two windows. Moments later, the businessman sitting next me quietly sympathy-puked into his briefcase.

After Tuesday’s harrowing events, I did what any sane, computer-literate person in 2012 does: I emailed all my friends and coworkers to ask if they’d ever had a more disgusting experience. Emails poured in of poop—actual poop!—on bus seats, hand jobs on the El, pee on the Broad Street Line, bloody tampons on trolleys, and three separate Regional Rail vomit incidents. [Got a disgusting SEPTA story? Make me feel better about my ruined shoes by sharing in the comments.]

Philadelphians, you are gross.

The sticking point for the transit police, who had been on strike since March 21, was a 35-cent-an-hour raise. Far be it from me to determine how much these workers should be paid for their jobs. After all, we live in a dangerous city where subway riders can be beaten in the head with hammers by strangers and a bus argument can trigger an attack with semi-automatic weapons. But perhaps, in addition to a higher salary and better benefits and whatever else the transit cops requested, they should also look into hazmat suits. Because if even this casual SEPTA rider has been puked on—I can’t even fathom what SEPTA employees must go through.