Private Pratices

Posted by mwallach on February 27, 2012 in Crazy Follows Me Everywhere, New Yorkers |

Dear That’s Life,

I am one of those who spreads her stuff across multiple tables in local coffee shops, treating someone else’s place of business like my own personal office. Currently occupying a number of chairs with my bags and coat, it might look to a normal passerby as if I am here for the night. Like many, I settle into various establishments in the area, laptop in hand and papers under my arm, ready to work for hours or until my assignment is done. The difference is, however, that while the location serves as my imaginary interim office and I may meet people there for an occasional meeting, at least I know it is still a public space.

One has to wonder about people who treat public facilities as their own. In the past couple of weeks, I have witnessed individuals on more than one occasion entering public restrooms complete with reading material tucked under the arms. The person makes no attempt to hide the newspaper he is bringing in with him to the facility. Rather, I imagine it is an unconscious act. He does not even realize he is doing it or that it is at all peculiar. Instead, it seems completely natural and acceptable, although it really is not. Frankly, I find it baffling. These establishments do want customers to make themselves comfortable, encouraging them to stop and stay a while. I do not believe, however, they intend for customers to be THAT comfortable. Save it for the privacy of your own home.

On the other hand, I may be wrong. This might be completely normal and I could be the only one who thinks it is weird. If it wasn’t, how else could someone explain my two recent instances of using public bathrooms where reading material was provided in the stalls themselves? Yes – on different occasions in unrelated locations, I closed the door behind me only to notice that there was something there for me read, deliberately left for users of that facility. One pamphlet I picked up asked if my drug habit was getting in the way of my personal relationships and if it had started to bother my friends. Not only was there reading material in the stall, which was already odd, but it also accused me of being a drug addict.

In another situation, there was actually a magazine rack filled with various current issues of some popular publications, as if encouraging users to settle in and get comfortable. Again, I must be the one with the issue, although I can only imagine the tribes of germs that have built themselves homes on those glossy covers. Maybe when I put it that way, someone else may agree that this is a bad idea.

I also find it curious how people on the train speak on their cell phones at full volume, as if they were enjoying leisurely conversations in their own kitchens. With complete disregard for fellow travelers, lengthy discussions, sometimes private in nature, are conducted for every commuter to hear. I have decided, therefore, that if the person does not care how many people hear what he/she has to say, then it should not bother that person either if I decide to join in the conversation. Fact is, if it was meant to be private, it would not be held in public. If one chooses to speak openly and loudly on one’s cell phone while surrounded by a captive audience, that person is basically asking for trouble from people like me. Rarely do these individuals even notice that I have become an active participant in their chat. It is only the people around them who are also annoyed by their inconsiderate behavior who appreciate my sense of humor.

Admittedly, I have been known to forget myself in public as well. I have been asked by my children never to play air guitar outside of our home again, though I still do not understand why it is a big deal. Even if I am listening to music at the gym and become inspired, I have been banned from said behavior, as it seems to be inappropriate in public. Despite being disappointed, I respect their wishes except while I am on the subway, where I rationalize that I am no crazier than anyone else and that no one notices what I am doing. Up until recently, I thought that was true.

With about twenty minutes left to a movie, I took out my ipad, intent on finishing a film I had been watching. I was enjoying the flick and simply wanted to see how it ended. Little did I know the ending would be emotional. Standing on the subway platform at West 4thstreet, unaware of my surroundings, tears began to stream down my face.

Tissues in hand, I wiped my cheeks as quickly as I could, though the tears turned to sobs. I even found myself whimpering. Unbeknownst to me, a gentleman nearby began staring at my unexplainable outpouring of emotion. As soon as he caught my eye and I realized what was going on, I woke from my reverie. I was immediately aware that I was crying in public, even making those sad little sounds children make when they cry. As if in my own logical defense, I looked at the man. “What???” I exclaimed, to an already stunned stranger. “It’s a really sad movie!”

Thank G-d he wasn’t the guy standing next to me last week when I was playing air guitar.

As seen in the South Shore Standard Feb 2011

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