Yesterday I was sitting on the train on my way into London, reading the paper and looking forward to eating at my favourite Indian restaurant, when all thoughts of food were wiped from my mind. Two rows down was a man with his index finger so far up his nose it must have been tickling the back of his skull. He began to rummage around and then triumphantly produced something on the end of his finger and proceeded to examine it in minute detail. At this point I looked away, too afraid to watch how the scene was going to end. It got me thinking about what is acceptable to do in public and what is most definitely not.
Obviously picking your nose in public is an absolute no no, although it is surprising how many people forget, particularly on public transport. It is also horrifying how many men will blew their noses into a tissue or handkerchief and then have a good long look at the contents. Why has no one told them that it is completely unacceptable and likely to set off the gag reflex in sensitive onlookers? Another revolting habit is spitting, the terrible hawking noise that precedes the actual thing is enough to send me rushing off down the road, terrified it might land on or near me.
Then again, some things are open to debate. What do you do if you have a monumental wedgie while walking down a busy street? Do you sort yourself out quickly then and there, or do you sidle into an alley or back up to a wall and do any adjustments out of sight? Husband tells the story of an ex whose knickers fell down while out shopping with her mother (I know, sounds suspicious doesn’t it?) and her mother said “Step out of them dear and keep walking” and apparently she did. I can’t help wondering what would have happened if an observant shopper had rushed over, picked up the offending garment and said “Oy! You dropped these”.
Another scenario which is interesting to watch and I am not sure of correct etiquette is the use of hot towels in a restaurant. When we are given the lovely warm, scented towels after eating, I use them to refresh my hands. Husband on the other hand, uses his to completely wipe his hands and face and has even been known to rub the back of his neck with it while I am hissing at him to stop. I must point out that he is not alone in this, as I have seen other husbands doing the same while their wives look either horrified or resigned.
At school we were told never to eat in the street or brush our hair in public, but both of those rules seem a little outdated now. Many people grab a sandwich for lunch and munch it on the way back to their desk, not the mention all the women who put the finishing touches to their makeup while on the train to work.
I suppose it is just a question of not doing anything which is going to make anyone in the vicinity feel queasy or set off the gag reflex. Making them roar with laughter should be avoided as well, although wardrobe malfunctions can happen to anyone. I am not sure that I would have had the nerve to step out of my knickers and keep walking. It is however a convincing argument for always wearing trousers.