The First Rule Of The Emergency Brake Is Do Not Pull The Emergency Brake


The same type of generic bug picture everyone else is using, so why not (Image: Dean Morley)

By now, you’ve already read the horrifying (or perhaps actually not so horrifying) New York Post story about the bugs unleashed in a subway car yesterday. If you haven’t, please take a moment:

Straphangers go berserk after woman tosses bugs in subway car

Okay look there’s a really important lesson here and it has nothing to do with bugs or even crazy ladies. It has to do with no-common-sense-having idiots. As my colleague Alex Balk put it, “the real ire should be directed at the jackass who pulled the emergency brake here.” This is one hundred precent true. Do you know what’s worse than bugs on the subway for the two-to-four minutes it takes to get from one station to the next? Bugs on the subway for half a fucking hour in the middle of the Manhattan Bridge while you wait for the brakes to be reset so service can resume while other passengers are screaming and crying and peeing and throwing up around you.

Every subway car has instructions for what to do in an emergency, and the literal first one is “Do not pull the emergency cord.” DO NOT PULL THE EMERGENCY CORD!!! If someone is having a heart attack, a baby, an anxiety attack, a fainting spell, a bad day, an aneurysm, a bad breakup, whatever it is, do not pull the cord. In almost every single case, it’s better to get to the next station and get to safety, medical attention, or Xanax. The only time it’s okay to pull the cord, according to the MTA, is

only when the motion of the subway presents an imminent danger to life and limb. Otherwise, do not activate the emergency brake cord, especially in a tunnel. Once the emergency brake cord is pulled, the brakes have to be reset before the train can move again, which reduces the options for dealing with the emergency.

(Emphasis mine because a bridge is basically an uncovered tunnel.)

Now. Please take a moment to review the safety card information in the seat-back pocket in front of you, AKA your laptop. A quick refresher:

(A story so nice Gothamist wrote it twice.)

‘Emergency Brake’ Name Confuses Many on New York Subways

Thank you, and have a safe ride.