The New York City subway system: we brag about it, we curse it, we rely on it, and we reserve the right to complain about it constantly. Except for one day out of the year when we honor it: October 27th, when in 1904 the first IRT subway line opened.

Taking the subway is a very different experience in 2020 — the service is no longer 24/7, ridership is down by millions, and straphangers are (mostly) wearing masks. Even if you find yourself riding the rails just as much as you were pre-pandemic, it's undeniable that things have changed about our mass transit system and how people use it, and you may find yourself missing some aspects of the way things were. So whether you've continued to take it throughout the pandemic, or haven't laid eyes on it for eight months, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate the subway on its 116th anniversary.

Let us know what you miss about the pre-pandemic rush hour in the comments... but first, here's our love letter, in no particular order except for the first one.

116 Things We Love & Miss About The Subway

Sai Mokhtari / Gothamist

<p>We've got art, too! Olafur Eliasson's <a href="http://gothamist.com/2008/06/27/nyc_waterfalls_night_moves.php">famous Waterfalls installation</a> was such a hit the MTA commissioned the artist to recreate it underground.</p>

  • Subway waterfalls
  • The collective summertime excitement of taking the train to the Rockaways packed with people in swimsuits and with surfboards and umbrellas, and that sleepy subway ride home at the end of the day
  • Watching New Yorkers react with characteristic indifference to rat sightings and literally everything else tossed in their line of sight
  • All of the typos
  • The sweet uneventful bliss of an unexpectedly quick commute
  • Totally normal stuff like this happening on a regular basis
  • The mysterious portal to a secret G train platform that exists BETWEEN stations
  • Happening upon makeshift tributes to icons who have passed (Aretha, Bowie, Ruth, and more)
  • Getting to see new subway gadgetry in action for the first time
  • When something unexpectedly sweet happens between strangers on the subway and it is captured on video but also when it’s not captured on video and it just becomes a quiet memory you hold close to your heart and it helps you get through an agonizingly slow commute
  • Spotting a subway car that’s been tagged but hasn’t been taken out of service yet
  • When teachers bring a group of tiny chattering children onto the subway and they have them all on a giant interconnected harness, that is the cutest shit we have ever seen
  • The bolted together frankenfloors
  • Being able to blame almost everything on subway delays
  • The days when finding yourself in an otherwise empty subway car were magical and rare and something you’d tell everyone you know about
  • The excitement of a new and/or refurbished subway station opening

Subway mosaic at 28th Street

THREE COLORS in one row of subway seats — #NYCBingo.

  • Mismatched subway seats
  • Giving directions to a tourist
  • Giving directions to a tourist and then watching them ask someone else because they don’t trust what you told them
  • The view over the Manhattan Bridge
  • The utter joy of riding the train with a very good dog, yes you are, who just sits there smiling because they do not know of the ills of this world, only the good
  • Banging the emergency brake cover on old cars to make it stop alarming
  • Someone holding the doors open for you because they see you running on the platform
  • The colorful, paint-drenched riders on the morning after J’ouvert
  • The seemingly endless possibilities promised by every ride, knowing at any stop, you could completely change your plans on a whim and get out and go somewhere you’ve never been
  • At any moment, Emma Watson could be in our subway system leaving books for you to find
  • The exhilaration of leaning against the doors and the subsequent fantasy of what would happen if you fell through them as the train is in motion
  • Parties in abandoned subway tunnels (what, you've never been?)
  • Overhearing other people complaining about the subway and wanting to join in with them but choosing just to listen
  • Giving a knowing look to a stranger when you are both trying to politely ignore someone else on the train
  • Getting mad thinking about how little Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo ride the subway
  • This big ass iguana who thinks he’s a dog
  • The fact you could just be minding your business going about your day and suddenly come upon a CRAB TRAIN
  • Catching someone singing quietly to themselves aloud because they have headphones on and don’t realize they’re doing it, and then they see you’re staring at them and get really embarrassed about it, but in your head you’re like, “no it was nice, don’t be embarrassed,” as you look away
  • Walking into an air conditioned car after baking on the platform
  • Watching someone who just missed the doors rip them open with their bare hands
  • Watching people who refuse to hold on to a pole falling over once the train gets moving
  • Getting to admire all the wonderful, weird, unforgettable NYC fashion
  • Unearthed subway maps
  • Hearing the “Happiest Conductor” tell you where you can get out for “Newwwww Jerrrrseeey”
Sai Mokhtari/Gothamist
  • Catching a nostalgia trains
  • Snow... on the indoor, underground platform
  • Seeing what books people are reading and silently judging or admiring them
  • The two guys who get on the train with a boom box and say “this train isn’t going Uptown” [dramatic pause] “It’s going MOTOWN.” And then they break into a version of “My Girl” that makes everyone smile
  • The nervous feeling of unexpectedly running into a work colleague or college/high school acquaintance on the train and having to make small talk for an indeterminate amount of time (a.k.a. Konversationkleinangst)
  • IIIIIT'S SHOWTIME!
  • Taking pictures of the train number when you get on a hot car and then tweeting at @nyctsubway
  • Looking for Keano ads and wondering how they got there
  • Listening to teenagers gossip on their way to/from school, alternating between jealousy and relief that you're not a teen anymore
  • Looking at all the creative ways people manipulate and cut and paste over the ads
  • Feeling smug you don’t have to wear a suit to work when you see people in suits get on the train
  • Missing your stop because you fell asleep or were sucked into your book, but it's okay because all you need to do is get off that train, get on another, and go back one stop, what can't the subway do?!
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A few plants could really tie this car together.

  • The beauty of the faux wood and 1970s color palette
  • The very specific feeling of hearing a train coming while you’re waiting on a platform late at night only to see the garbage train pull in — it’s a crestfallen-yet-magical-sighting moment
  • Standing on the platform and quickly scarfing down a slice of dollar pizza you bought after leaving the bar
  • The view of the city from the A train crossing the bridge into the Rockaways
  • Overhearing straphangers try to explain the weekend service changes to each other in vain
  • “Stand clear of the closing doors, please.” BING BONG
  • Pulling up to Coney Island on the F train
  • Hearing that your local is going express, which is exactly what you wanted
  • Jen Chung complaining about backpacks on the subway

Contributions from the Gothamist + WNYC newsroom.