Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Jason Shelowitz - Give Him An 'A' On The Train

Jason Shelowitz (aka JayShells) is not just another cool hipster living in Williamsburg. These days, he’s an action hero taking on the rude behavior of New York’s subway riders. His guerrilla ten poster campaign takes rude New Yorkers to task covering littering, hygiene, seating, staircase etiquette, loud music, preaching and physical contact. Two posters are pictured above. With his graphic skills and nerve, he’s the talk of the town.

To us, he’s a fellow etiquette activist. Like him, it’s not above us to take action and point out to people on the spot when they're breaking laws of etiquette and we share some of the same pet peeves such as clipping nails in public. (See our post, Clip Notes, The Nasty Ones, March 18th.)

His campaign has gained global attention and he’s very busy but was courteous enough (Of course!) to answer a few questions.

Q: Is the subway etiquette campaign the first of its kind that you've done?

A: Yes, I haven't done anything quite like this before.

Q: Are you a stickler for etiquette?

A: I guess I am. Mostly when other people are forced to deal with others in confined spaces (subways, buses, elevators etc.). Because in these instances, we have nowhere to go and are forced to deal with other people behavior.

Q: Have you, as we are known to do, ever approached someone while they were doing the rude things people do?

A: Oh yeah. Just two weeks ago I had a little confrontation with a religious radical on the F train. She was screaming her head off at everyone about how we were going to all burn in hell. So I gave it back to her pretty severely. Can't remember exactly what I said, but I basically cut her off every time she tried to yell at us. I remember asking her if she thought it was fair that we were being forced to listen to her, and asking her if she thought her God would approve of her bantering and threatening all of us. I got a round of applause and moved to the next car at the next stop. I also said something last summer to a person who had (no shit) a plastic bag of crabs in his hand. He was sucking meat out of the crabs and throwing the shells on the floor. Can you believe that shit? I say something when the opportunity seems right, other times, I just change cars. You never know who's gonna pull out a weapon, you know?

Q: What was the defining moment that motivated you to create the campaign?

A: The defining moment was the moment I got access to a silkscreen studio and could begin making posters. There was no particular event on the train that pushed me over the edge, just years and years of nastiness.

Q: Has the MTA contacted you?

A: No they have not, despite what you might have read.

Q: Have you received suggestions for other posters? (We have some.)

A: More than I can keep track of. For these people I will just say to be patient. We are working on a site where people can type in their own messages onto my template and download a PDF to do with it whatever they like. Also, the message they input will go to an online gallery for other people to view / download.

Q: Do you find subway people ruder than bus people?

A: Oh, yeah. But there are bus perpetrators too (as I'm sure you know)

Q: Were you in danger of being arrested?

A: This is not an offense that warrants an arrest, there’s a $25 fine. I am still putting some posters up, so I guess I can still get caught. I'll be done by Wednesday, April 28. Have to hit the 7 train because I've had so many people contact me about that train specifically. So I'll hit two of them, one heading to Queens, and one coming back to the city.

Two of the posters will be in an upcoming F.I.T. show in Williamsburg; it's a subway related art exhibit. Also, because so many people have contacted me about it, I'll put about 10 of each poster on my Etsy page for people to purchase. I love the irony. People want to pay for something that I have put up in the public domain for free. Hey, I've got bills to pay so why not right? Plus, a lot of the people who have asked for them live in other cities. That's why this campaign has taken off and gone global so quick; because it applies to any major city with public transportation.

Jason says our site is fantastic, we think his campaign is pretty fantastic.
It’s a mutual admiration society thing.


Anonymous said...

I love the fact that you are supporting your fellow activists.

Anonymous said...

this was PRICELESS; especially, the crab story - I just returned from visiting my daughter in Baltimore and as it was a gorgeous weekend we went to a wonderful place on the water and had crabs the way you are supposed top; ie, on top of newspaper, with a bucket for the discards, etc. The vision in my head of someone doing that amount of work on a subway is too frightening to consider.

Anonymous said...

Pretty cool idea. I love the phrase a fellow etiquette activist.

Anonymous said...

this is'd you find this guy.....great interview !

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Kudos to Jason! He hits the mark and in particular, regarding religious zealots. Many of us Americans believe in a higher spirit and the vast majority don't put our beliefs on others. It's a private thing and being Americans, most (unfortunately, not all) of us support everyone's freedom to worship as we choose. That is one of our strengths in our country. We do it because our common bible, "The Constitution," the law of the land, states it clearly.

To my fellow New Yorkers, the screeching man or woman on the train are not to be confused with people at the station offering printed material that explains how they believe. All are free to do that and that is not an imposition. When I politely say, "No thank you," my words are accepted.

They are not to be confused with the "in your face" street corner people who attempt to corner you after you've said, "No thank you."

The next time you are on a train, look closely at the screeching zealot. Notice how he/she appear to be talking to no one but themselves. That being said, Jason was right in his response. It tells us that they can hear and listen.

This reminds me of a story I heard a few years ago. A well-dressed guy was walking down Park Avenue and a screeching zealot got in his face telling him that he would burn in hell because he was rich (guess the clothes made him look rich). The zealot went on and on. The well-dressed guy stood there, nose to nose. A crowd gathered. The zealot continued.

When the zealot finally took a breath, the well-dressed guy screamed in an equally loud voice, "SHUT UP!" His words, "Shut Up," were received with applause by all who had gathered. The zealot, realizing that he was outnumbered, walked away.