Got shmutz?

Schmutz survey

Days ago, the New York Times reported on a Straphangers Campaign study on the cleanliness of New York's subway cars. The shmutz survey, as it's called, was conducted on 2,200 cars between September and December of 2004.

Cars are rated on the overall dirt present—an Are the surfaces generally clean? survey. Being a daily rider of the 1 train, I was not at all surprised to learn that my train came in last among the 22 subway lines surveyed.

Aside from bodily excretions, I suppose the more egregious pools to step in are the dried, sticky coffee that has transformed into a paste from that morning's commute, when I imagine some poor soul's cup spilling on a crowded train.

Of course, we've all been the victim of the rolling bottle. As long as that bottle is pointed toward or away from the direction of travel, it remains stationary. But, once the train takes a turn then it could roll clear across the car. If it rolls to your feet, you become the victim and your scruples are tested. Do you pick up the bottle to throw it away? Do you slide the bottle under your seat against the wall to prevent it from striking again? (A variation is to toss the bottle off the train at the next station.) Or, do you simply pretend nothing happened so as not to attract unwanted attention? In my experience, the first option never occurs and the second and third option have equal probability of occurring.

Now that the cars have been surveyed, I would like to know when the stations will be surveyed???