Can we talk about something really important for a minute?
This post was directly inspired by a post from another blog on manners that I read recently about people who stand to close. It got me thinking about one of my biggest pet peeves.
On Tuesday mornings I take the 6:27 am train into the city from Long Island to get to work by 8. Every morning, but especially the really early trains, are always packed with other commuters trying to get an early start at work. Needless to say, it’s a struggle to get a seat on the train, and any commuter knows that sometimes you end up sitting next to some, well, interesting characters. If you want a pleasant ride to work, it is vital to choose a seat next to someone who is like-minded. When I’m picking my seat, I try my best to find someone who looks like they want the same kind of ride to work that I do, which is a quiet interlude before the hustle and bustle of the day begins. Usually I look for someone with a newspaper and coffee in hand, because that typically means they just want to drink their coffee, read their paper, and not be bothered otherwise. But I’ve been wrong. Oh, I’ve been so wrong before, and made decisions that have ended with me practically banging my head against the window at some people’s bad manners.
On these rides, I’ve encountered a wide range of bad manners, so much so that I could probably write a book on train etiquette. I’ve experienced such things as, two women sitting next to one another yapping loudly on an otherwise quiet/serene train about their menstrual cycles, clipping fingernails, painting fingernails, someone humming to music on their iPod for the full hour ride, people putting coats/and or bags down on the seat beside them so that some other poor unfortunate soul can’t get a seat and has to stand the whole time, smoking in the bathroom, and much more.
Perhaps the worst, and the absolutely most egregious of them all, was the man who sat beside me one Tuesday. He seemed nice enough as he sat down next to me with his newspaper tucked under one arm, and a white paper bad under the other. He was middle-aged, bald, and married (I could tell because he had a ring on his finger). I was watching a movie for my film class on my Kindle with head phones in, and when he asked to sit down, I scooted over as much as I could to give him room. I was right in the middle of watching a Danish film with subtitles, when he broke open his white paper bag, unveiling two bagels with cream cheese that were wrapped in thin paper. He wasted no time unwrapping the first and digging in. There I sat, minding my own business watching my movie, and sipping on my coffee that I brought in my travel mug. I was trying to pay attention to the subtleties of the film, like lighting and camera angles, hidden meanings in dialogue so that could write my six page paper later on that night, when I began to hear loud, churning mouthfuls of the man eating his bagel. I paused my movie for a second, and hoped that the resounding smacking of food churning around in his mouth would soon subside. Instead, it went on and on and on and on. Each time he took a bite, he smacked his mouth open and closed, so that I could hear the very moment his bite of bagel and cream cheese began to mix with his saliva. I sat there in disbelief that a grown human being was eating this way. As he continued to chew with his mouth wide open, I noticed other people turning around to see who was eating like this, too.
I pressed play on my movie, turned the volume all the way up, and tried to block out the incessant sound of the food swirling together next to me. It didn’t work, though, the acoustics of his chewing sounded as if they were coming out of a loud-speaker. “Smack. Smack. Smack,” his chomping went on. I racked my brain trying to come up with a way to politely tell him to eat quieter, but how do you tell a grown man that? Well, you don’t, because if he hasn’t already learned that its impolite to eat this way at forty something years old, than I doubt he is going to listen to me. He probably wouldn’t even know what I was talking about anyway. It was obvious that no one had ever drawn it to his attention before, or maybe that had, but he just didn’t care. He had to have noticed the multiple people around him giving him dirty looks, but it didn’t matter, because he was going to swish the food in his mouth like a whirlpool whether it bothered everyone else around him or not. Sitting next to this guy was like sitting next to a two-year old at the kid table.
When he finally finished the last bite of his bagel, I breathed a sigh of relief. I began to watch my movie again, but just as I started to get into it again, there was the smacking again. However, this time he was chewing gum. I saw him put piece after piece of gum in his mouth, and to be honest, I’m not even sure how he managed to fit nearly an entire pack of gum in there, but he did. There he sat, snapping away at his gum. Luckily, the train ride was nearly over at that point, and I resolved to shutting my Kindle and giving up on the movie. When we got to Penn station, I got off the train, and figured (and hoped) I’d never see this guy again.
But I did end up seeing him again. The next time I saw him, he was standing on the train platform, newspaper under one arm, and a white paper bag under the other. I watched as he stepped onto the packed train, making his way to an open seat. I heard him say, “Can I sit down here?” To an unsuspecting woman in her mid-thirties. A few people who seemed to be acquainted with his eating antics actually got up and moved as if they were migrating to the imaginary good habits section of the train.
I never saw the woman once the train ride was over, but I still see the man with bad manners every now and then. Each time I see him, a quote I once heard replays over and over in my head.
“Good manners sometimes means putting up with other people’s bad manners.”
And sometimes it’s just as simple as that.
Tell me, what are the bad manners that you can’t stand?
Photos by pinterest.