On the bus in front of me a woman was vigorously filing her nails. The man sitting in front of her was half turned towards her as though ready to make a comment. His face looked aggrieved. When he went to get off he said something to her -I didn’t catch it- but she didn’t look up from her intensive manicuring. He shook his head before making to go down the stairs to get off the bus. Half way down the stairs he came back up and said something else. She didn’t look up. I didn’t hear it. In the end, he got off the bus. She continued filing.
I wasn’t sure where I stood on the public manicure issue. She clearly thought it was all well and good in a public space and he didn’t. In the public realm what is acceptable has now no common agreement at all. A couple of minutes later a girl started watching a TV programme on her smart phone without headphones. I did not get up to say anything as the other man had done, but this for me was further beyond the pale than the public manicure. More and more, as public behaviour expands in the space and decible count it needs and as people treat public space like a extension of the living room, dissent will increase. The monoculture is now smashed into a thousand versions of what is or isn’t acceptable. The range of action of an individual is now vast; encroachments on her or his freedom are less and less acceptable. You would think there would come a day when the explosion of public extroversion becomes intolderable. As it is, I am thinking of setting up a rule in my own life that all talk after eight o’clock at night be conducted in whisper. I will drift incrementally, gently, down the stairs of the declining day to sleep. Sounds blissful. But then there are other people. They tend to have their say too. they may refuse to whisper. How unreasonable!