03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Road Wars: Arming for the Subway Commute

My commute is far from gruesome. I've seen worse - hiking up hills in
Aberystwyth or cross-country marching at 8AM to an early-morning class in
University Park, PA were far worse.

However, short and sweet as the morning PATH journey is, it lacks the stability
of my own two feet, and commonly throws my fellow passengers and I to-and-fro,
making anything more than listening to music difficult. And, frankly, I grow
very tired of listening to music in the morning.

It's something individual to the NYC/NJ commute, too - the rough-and-tumble
ride isn't in effect in London, Paris,
Japan, or even riding in a
taxi along the winding turns of Sardinia's
hills. The controlled chaos that we deal with requires a certain steely will -
and a plethora of entertainment means that fit those hanging on for dear life.

Please keep all naughty jokes related to one-handed anything to a

The Kindle
and iPhone/iPod Touch are the most
generic choices, mostly because they’re built to be held, navigated and used
with one hand. More importantly, you can also get a significant grip on them
if, for example, the train judders wildly from side-to-side at an unexpected
opportunity. This is where phones like the Droid lack in finesse - the
proud inclusion of the keyboard in a tight package makes for a hard-to-wield
device when supporting yourself on the morning rush.

Road warriors trying to eek out that last email on the train will prefer the
physical keyboard which is far more reliable than shakily stabbing at the
iPhone's on-screen keyboard. I fail to mention other e-readers simply because,
at present, the Kindle is reliably better for anyone trying to read with one
hand. You can do everything with a firm grip with most of your fingers, deftly
clicking between the menus using your thumb. This may seem somewhat of a trite
point, but Sony's awkward clicky-wheels and touchscreens, or the oncoming glut
of Tablets don't seem like they'll be too useful for anyone standing.

Neither the Nintendo DS nor the PSP
are particularly friendly for a bumpy subway journey without a seat. Playing
the PSP with one arm wrapped around a bar will work briefly, but a wrong turn
will send it hurtling out of your hand. The DS is just too fiddly to be used by
anyone destabilized.

The iPhone features plenty of games that are totally and utterly
unsympathetic to the road warrior yet remains arguably the best gaming tool for
the job. However, Bookworm ($2.99), Crush the Castle ($1.99) and Civilization:
Revolution ($6.99) can all be played effectively either with a nimble thumb or
in small, controlled doses - between stops, calm moments on the journey, or
when the train decides to stop for no reason.

In fact, here's my little tip to the print industry for its next
technological leap; whatever you use to display the news on next, please make
it usable with one hand. The New York
metro will thank you for it.

If you have any great ideas for how to keep oneself entertained while being
flung about in a tube full of sweaty individuals, feel free to leave a comment.