the candler blog

No iPads Near the Subway Doors?

Opinion, technology

Friday night, on my way home from a night on the town, I boarded an uptown express train around 9:30pm. It was a moderately crowded car but I found a seat right away, right by the door. I like sitting there because then I only have to sit next to one (potentially stinky) stranger instead of two.

After I’d been happily riding the train for about five stops, listening to music on my iPhone and clacking away on my iPad, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked up and there was an NYPD officer trying to get my attention. I took out my headphones to listen. He told me that I was in the worst possible seat to be using a tablet (“You’re in the wrong seat for that.”) because someone could just poke their head in the doorway and yank it out of my hands. I nodded and went back to my writing, to which I got a real nasty look from the officer, who indicated I really better put it away that instant.

Erring on the side of “I don’t need this right now,” I tucked my iPad into by bag and started typing out this piece on my iPhone. Initially, I was a bit indignant at the suggestion that using an iPad in public was inviting thieves to take my stuff, but I understand where the NYPD is coming from. They’re simply trying to preach good preventative measures so that there is less crime, thereby less headaches for them. This is the same police department that discouraged people from wearing Apple’s iconic white headphones as it is indicated the wearer was using an iPod, thus making them a worthwhile mugging target. It makes sense, but only to a point.

Personal safety and security is always going to be a concern, and not just for technology. What I find confusing about the NYPD’s logic here is that one may as well not sit near the door at all. Couldn’t someone pop in to take your bag, your wallet, your watch? Are you actually safer further inside the car or is there another set of survival rules one must abide there? I’m not trying to be funny here, I’m just trying to follow the NYPD’s thread. Is the issue that using technology in public is an obviously stupid move? Or is it that riding the subway at all is something of a free for all?

An iPod at least is small enough for a pickpocket to take without your noticing (although if you’re listening to it and you don’t notice it’s gone, there are other issues) but an iPad is bulky enough that you could at least report it or cause enough of a ruckus to get an officer involved. Anyway, I’m not discouraged from using my iPad or reading a book or holding anything in my hands while I stand near the door.

For what it’s worth I generally feel very safe on New York City subways, safer than I ever felt on Philadelphia’s subway. I suppose that’s why I’m surprised that this officer went so far as to draw attention to the fact that I apparently would get mugged if I kept on writing on my iPad.

I’m posting to see if any other readers have had an experience in which the police suggested having an electronic out in public was asking for trouble. Worse, has anyone actually had anything stolen in this manner? It has to be a problem if the NYPD has come up with a plan, right?

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