Besides fumbling with the newspaper, the subway game Gothamist plays is "Do we really need to hold onto the bar/pole to remain steady?" Sometimes, we're able to lean against the doors (yes, the MTA doesn't advise this, but we're skilled at it). Or sometimes we'll work on our balance and just plant our legs firmly on the ground and will ourselves not to topple into others. But most of the time, Gothamist grabs onto the bar or pole and whip out the Purell as soon as we're out of there.
That's why we're fascinated by the TranStrap. There are a couple of different kinds of TranStraps, but basically, you hook it onto the bar and actually be a straphanger. It seems particularly effective since the bar can be too high for some - or maybe you have sweaty armpits. The TranStrap has apparently hit Boston and we wonder if we'll see it in the city...it is washable, at least. And TranStrap has a good many transit rider links.
We literally screamed when Bart licked a subway pole in the ninth season Simpsons episode, The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson.