I’d like to believe that there is an unspoken rule against certain types of public activities. For example, no one ever had to explicitly teach me that it was wrong to blow my nose into my hand and then wipe it on my chair. I’ve figured that out on my own. Apparently, though, some people do need things to be spelled out in detail, because every day I see public behavior that makes my skin crawl. Do these people’s mothers know what they’re doing, right out in the open for everyone to see? Have we, as a society, lost our concept of decency? Maybe I just need to start hanging out in classier neighborhoods, but regardless of gender, there are certain things that are just flat-out wrong to do in public.
Pop a Zit
I can understand the impulse to pick at a troublesome blemish, but I cannot imagine wanting to do it while on a crowded bus. Or at the mirror in a public restroom. Besides being fairly messy and disgusting, it’s just unsanitary. Picking scabs also falls under this category.
Hit Your Children
You’re at the grocery store, and little Jimmy or Jessica is screaming for Pop-Tarts, and all you want to do is smack them into next Tuesday. It’s hard being a parent, I know. I’m not arguing about whether kids need discipline, but physically punishing your children in public is just asking for trouble. It’s your business how you raise your kids, but if you insist on hitting them in the middle of a store or street, you should expect some well-meaning strangers to intervene. It makes everyone uncomfortable, even parents who are members of the pro-spanking brigade. Wait until you get home to dole out the punishment.
Clip Your Fingernails or Toenails
Keeping a file in your bag to deal with fingernail emergencies = acceptable. Busting out the clippers while waiting in line at the DMV = nasty. No one wants to be confronted with a pile of your clippings, thanks.
Broadcast Your Private Conversations
Cell phones are here to stay, and that means that we’re all inevitably going to catch snippets of each other’s conversations. If you’re talking to someone about your weekend plans or what you’re making for dinner, that’s fine. Let’s agree, though, that intimate personal or medical details should not be discussed in public. If you’re discussing your upcoming colonoscopy, your recent bout with the flu, or the smell emanating from under your refrigerator, wait until you’re at home.
Change a Baby’s Diaper
Again, I know—parenting is hard. Sometimes babies poop at really inconvenient times. However, if you’re in public, it’s usually possible to find a bathroom with a changing station nearby, or at least a quiet out-of-the-way corner, instead of subjecting innocent passersby to the diaper-changing experience. For example, if you’re on the New York City subway at rush hour in August, don’t wake your sleeping baby to change her diaper on the seat next to you. Other people probably do not want to be disturbed by diaper duty while eating in a restaurant, sitting on a crowded plane, or watching a movie.
Change Your Tampon
When I heard the “now you’re a woman” talk, I naturally assumed that switching tampons and pads should be done in the bathroom. With the door closed. Apparently, there are people for whom this needs to be specified a little more clearly. Recently, I walked into the locker room at the gym, and there was a woman flagrantly taking care of her business right in the middle of the room, without a care in the world, despite the fact that there were perfectly serviceable bathroom stalls not twenty feet away. I’d take this as an isolated incident, but I’m not the only one to witness this horror. Ladies, please. It may be a natural bodily function, but it’s a function we don’t want to witness.
I know that nothing brightens my day faster than stepping in a big ol’ lugey on the sidewalk. At what point did it become acceptable for adults walking down the street to spit at random? My mother taught me better than that, and it’s a shame that other people’s moms were slacking off on this issue. Spitting is gross.
Urinate Al Fresco
If you’re in a park or forest when the urge strikes you, feel free to go do your thing behind a bush. Just watch out for the poison ivy. But what’s the deal with people peeing in the street? Maybe it’s just because I live in San Francisco, but I see this with alarming frequency. They’re not just furtively relieving themselves in empty alleys, they’re urinating on the newspaper box next to the crowded bus stop. They’re peeing in front of the window of bustling cafés. It’s icky to see a puddle of piddle on the street and have to wonder if came from a dog or a dude.
Regardless of where an errant hair might sprout up, it’s not appropriate to whip out some tweezers and start yanking. We don’t want to watch where you drop the hairs.
Floss Your Teeth
It’s unfortunate that people are so pressed for time in the mornings that they’re forced to do their daily flossing while in waiting in line at Starbucks. I’m all for oral hygiene, but please liberate your tooth goobers in a place where the rest of the world doesn’t have to watch.
I have lived in urban areas for most of my life, and I’ve seen some wild examples of public nastiness, some too foul to even mention here. I’d like to imagine a society in which everyone agreed not to gross each other out. I’d live in that world. But knowing my luck, some jerk would come along and spit on it.