Not in Public, People
Observation: We tend to know how to behave in settings—parties, networking events, meetings—in which we intend to interact with other humans. (Mostly. I’ve encountered many exceptions.)
However, when visiting public places with interaction as a necessity, not an intention—mass transit, retail, building lobbies, government offices, the sidewalk, you name it—we become oblivious to our fellow humans. Sure, we may ensure the door doesn’t slam on someone entering the building behind us, and we may offer to press others’ floor buttons in elevators, and we may head to the back of lines out of common courtesy.
Yet we fail to remember that people can hear us when we loudly suck snot from our nostrils every two seconds—do you need a tissue, sir?—and can see us when we squeeze the gunk out of our faces and wipe it on the public seating. And we forget that the other people in the bathroom watch us exit without washing our hands and then touch store merchandise. And we seem not to realize that the woman sitting next to us on the airplane from Baltimore to Houston—in this case, me—cannot help but observe, no matter how much she wishes she could block it from her peripheral vision, our hands snaking up the legs of our shorts to scratch about in our nether regions. Repeatedly. Over the course of a three-hour flight.
Simply because necessity straps us to the same public-transit vehicle and coincidence has us shopping at the same mall does not mean any of us undertake these activities alone. And I think we can agree on this fact: We should undertake certain behaviors completely solo. At home. Maybe even in the bathroom of our homes. With none of our housemates in the experience zone.
Manners go beyond simply standing when a pregnant woman enters our vicinity and needs a seat and using utensils rather than our hands at dinner. Manners extend to ensuring our behaviors don’t inconvenience or upset others—including completely grossing them out.
Get it together, folks.