It's Not You, It's Us

You know what I love about my job? I get to take the train to get to it. No driving downtown, no parking space drama, no stress, no hefty tickets for urinating on cars that are parked where I want to be; it's all about relaxing in a comfortably upholstered seat, reading in an air conditioned tube that looks like several penises strung together. At least, until you find someone selfish.

You see, that's exactly what happened to me about two weeks ago. I was sitting on the train reading, when I start hearing a conversation taking place between the upper and lower lips of the woman diagonally across from me. Their conversation went something like "This is yummy chocolate." "Yeah, and it explains our owner's poor comlexion." "I agree. She looks like a gourd."

I didn't wholly agree with what they had to say, but I let it go because I was involved enough in my book that I could ignore it. The next day the same thing happened, but I was at a less engaging part of my book. So after she'd taken about two bites of her chocolate bar and chewed them loudly, I spoke up. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Excuse me. Would you mind keeping your lips closed while you chew?

Her: What?

Me: The sound of your lips as you chew is rather annoying. Would you mind chewing with them closed?

Her: So now I can't eat on the train?

Me: I don't care if you eat, I just don't want to hear you do it.

Her: If you don't like it there are plenty of other seats you can sit in.

Me: Or you could chew with your lips closed.

Her: I'll chew however I want to chew.

Me (to the person directly opposite me, as I stand up): If you'll excuse me, I prefer the company of smart people.

Now, let's ignore for now that chewing with your mouth closed is a skill most of us mastered by the time we were five, and evaluate the woman perpetrating the chewing. Is there in fact anything wrong with her eating on the train? Not at all. I usually have a couple vitamin C tabs in my mouth for the entire ride, and dozens of people eat on the train every morning.

The fact is, when you have to get up early and don't have time for breakfast at home, your options are to eat breakfast at a restaurant, or bring something with you and eat it on the way down. I am in the very fortunate position of having enough income that I can afford to eat breakfast downtown every day, but most people can't do that, so they eat on the train, or as they drive, or while they wait for the bus. There is nothing wrong with this.

The problem was entirely with her last statement: "I'll chew however I want to chew." I'm sorry, but that's just not how polite society works. In the world I live in, there are things called "courtesy" and "politeness" which must be followed in order to positively contribute to the social structure of the environment. This is the thing that escapes this unnamed woman.

You see, it's really not that I don't want her to eat on the train: I seriously don't care. I just know that the other hundred or so people sitting near her don't want to hear her lips discussing how grotesquely ugly she is. It's not about trying to restrict her or strip her of her right to eat on a train, it's about realizing there are other people around who are expecting some modicum of respect and decency from you; the same respect and decency they automatically give you until you demonstrate you aren't worthy of it.

What that last line from her actually said was "Fuck you, I'll do what I want, when I want, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it you fucking asshole." Well guess what: there is. Because ever since that day she hasn't eaten on the train, presumably because she was talking to her coworkers about what an asshole I was, and they said "What the fuck's wrong with you? He's right, stop being so fucking selfish and be considerate of others for once. Also, you look like a gourd."

The simple fact: to get by in this world you have to be respectful of others, and if you don't like that you can swallow my oily taint sweat.

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