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An Artist Turned Real-Life Subway Horror Stories Into Etiquette Signs

"Please grasp poles between hands, not butt cheeks."

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A few months ago Chad O'Connell, an art director at a New York advertising firm, saw the NYC subway's new courtesy campaign and decided he could do better.

"They address some of the weird stuff people do on the subway," O'Connell told BuzzFeed News, "but they didn't even get close to how weird it can actually be."

@MTA #CourtesyCampaign targets nail clippers & subway dancers

O'Connell, a resident of Brooklyn, spent days researching the strangest and most horrible subway stories he could find, and made his own "Crucial Courtesies" campaign for his favorite seven.

He posted the results on a Tumblr.


O'Connell considered putting his pieces alongside the official MTA ones, but decided against vandalism.

"Instead I've been trying to get people to tweet these ideas and their own at the MTA with the hashtag #CrucialCourtesies," O'Connell said. "It would be so cool if the MTA started adding these crazier stories."


"This toolbag was wheeling left and right on his swivel chair with his wet umbrella," a witness told The Gothamist. "He didn't give a fuck about people getting on or off. This is my New York."

He also illustrated the more common – but no less shocking – subway occurrences.

Chad O'Connell

"I saw the 'butt-pole' one myself, just a few months after I moved to New York," O'Connell told BuzzFeed News. "I couldn't believe it!"


And also the grossest.

Chad O'Connell

"I'm actually guilty of subway puking myself," O'Connell confessed. "But I did the courteous thing and ran off the train and found a trash can! That's what you should do."

O'Connell is considering adding to the Crucial Courtesies series with stories people have told him online. "A person responded to my series saying they saw a man eat a whole wheel of cheese on the train," O'Connell said. "That would make a great one."

O'Connell sees the series as a service of sorts for New Yorkers.

"I just wanted to say what people are thinking, but don't say," he said.

Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Ema O'Connor at

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