Friday, May 23, 2008

Bathroom Behavior on the Subway

What is it with people who engage in acts in public that used to be relegated to the privacy of one's home? I'm talking about all those people I see on the subway during my daily commute clipping their nails or applying makeup as if the train were their personal bathroom.

Some people have told me that my violent reactions to public nail clipping are a bit over the top, that it's merely a minor annoyance. Minor my ass. That clip-clip-clip sound drives me nuts. And these clip-happy offenders don't just clip in broad strokes and get it over with quickly. No, they go at each nail with five or six minuscule clips in the most leisurely, ponderous fashion. That makes at least fifty clips for a pair of hands. Fifty annoying clicky clips! And then they leave the detritus of their bodies, crumbs and dust of nail, all over the floor of the subway car, a public conveyance, dammit! I don't know what annoys me more: the clipping itself or the lack of regard for others.

And then there are the women who apply makeup from scratch during their commute. I'm not talking about a quick lipstick refresher; I could live with that. I mean multiple layers, multiple brushes, the whole shebang. I know nothing about makeup, but I'm guessing that at the very least we're talking about foundation, blush, powder, eyeliner, mascara and lipstick. Have I left anything out and have they no shame? Isn't that what powder rooms are for? I realize that they're trying to save time in the morning by not doing this at home, but it annoys the hell out of me. Call me old fashioned, but there are some things one just doesn't do in public. Whenever I see one of these women doing their in-transit maquillage I secretly hope for a sudden jolt of the train that will bollocks up their handiwork.

In addition to the clippers and the makeup ladies, there are the nose pickers. And it's not furtive picking either. These people pick with great glee and gusto, oblivious to the passengers around them. Who knows how many boogers and pieces of fingernail I'm stepping on every morning.

I realize that some public behaviors I find annoying or disgusting are acceptable in other cultures. Indeed, while I was traveling in China I saw so many people spitting big gobs of sputum and phlegm onto train platforms that I felt like a party pooper for not joining in. But, unless I'm mistaken, there was a time in New York when people, for the most part, restricted their bathroom behavior to the bathroom. Something has changed over the years. My friend Manda believes the advent of the Walkman had something to do with it. It cut people off from the greater public as they tuned into their music and themselves.

There's probably no turning back, but I have a modest proposal for the New York City subway system. I propose that certain behaviors be restricted to certain lines. Nail clipping could be confined to the N train, makeup to the M train. Since N is already spoken for, we could put the nose pickers on the B for booger train. I'll tell you one thing, though. If my plan is ever adopted you can be sure as hell I'll be avoiding the number 1 and number 2 trains like the plague.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved the story, Pete. The last paragraph was the best.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


You're showing your age.


11:27 AM  
Blogger Peter Cherches said...

It's not age Clint, it's my nature. I'm told that as a baby I babbled in a curmudgeonly fashion.

7:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's no excuse for nail clipping on the subway. Equally grotesque are women who brush their hair and drop the wads that came out onto the ground. I also hate the makeup thing, though it's not a hygenic issue as with hair and nail clippings, so I've never been able to justify why it's so irritating to me. What I've always wondered is what these makeup putter-oners do if they don't get a seat in the morning. Do they just get to work naked faced? I've never seen anyone applying a full face of makeup standing up.

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can top all that. On the coney island bound F train at about 8:20 tonight (May 30). A young spanish lady peed right in the middle of the train. Just stood there and let the pee run right down her legs. Announcing that “hey it's just water don't worry about it” She then walk away from the wet floor leaving the people around her to grab there bags and move away in disgust. Boy, I thought I have seen everything…..Wrong

12:14 AM  
Blogger Librarian Cheryl said...

right on!

5:56 PM  
Blogger TS said...

It's all the public sex, vomiting, defecation, and displays of psychotic rage and hysteria that put me off.

9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, you might also have the abandon the A and C trains, if you think about it.

You mean to say people don't spit in the MTA? Spitting is alive and well in Chicago. And since a large part of our system is elevated, I bet more than a few pedestrians below have been treated to an unexpected spit bomb.

12:52 AM  

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