Who knew the condiment was the solution to crowded trains?

By Mike Pomranz
Updated February 10, 2020
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The only thing worse than a crowded New York City subway car is a gross New York City subway car. And apparently, a horribly inventive commuter has found a way to use the latter to deal with the former by getting selfishly aggressive with a ketchup bottle.

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On Friday, CNN Senior Editor Pervaiz Shallwani took to Twitter with an image that—without additional explanation—would seem incredibly normal to most MTA riders: a mess on the floor of a subway car. But it turns out the backstory was far more devilish. “A straphanger in morning A train pulled a bottle of ketchup from his bag and squirted a perimeter on the train car floor to keep folks from crowding his seat,” Shallwani wrote. “Props to the woman seated next to him who is not going to give up her seat.”

This sociopathic tale is so deranged that, typically, I’d be fact-checking to assure it’s real, but Shallwani is a journalist covering law enforcement (verified Twitter blue checkmark and all)! Plus, he’s a trained chef—so he knows ketchup when he sees it. “Here for all your food crimes and crimes against food,” he later quipped in a reply.

So what are we to make of this? First and foremost, let’s hope it’s not a trend. We do not want passengers brazenly flaunting condiments to bully the rest of us on public transport. But on the flipside, I’m also left wondering if this is more common than I realize. During my eight years in New York City, I saw some disgusting stuff on subways. I always assumed it’s because the city had plenty of jerks who didn’t care, but maybe NYC is actually filled with diabolical geniuses quietly turning crowded subway cars into their own private coaches. (Or maybe it’s just a subconscious gray area somewhere in the middle.) Either way, what makes this ketchup culprit so horrible is that clearly he knew exactly how off-putting he was actively being.

Regardless, speaking of being active, Shallwani included a “#MTA” hashtag at the end of his post, and within just five minutes, the official NYCT Subway account responded, asking, “Do you have the 4 digit train car number the ketchup is in?” Of course, like any good journalist, Shallwani did. And so, within just eight minutes, the transit team replied, “We'll ask our maintenance team to clean this up ASAP.”

However, the comfort-loving catsup clutcher is still at large.