It was the end of a long day and travelling on the train from work to home, I was looking forward to finishing off a rather good book to unwind in readiness for the evening ahead. My boarding station is the beginning of the line so, having arrived in good time (therein raising another gripe for another day!), I had a wide selection of seats to choose from.
Having boarded the train I managed to secure my favoured forward facing table spot in the front carriage, a promising start, though a few minutes later I was joined by a rather ostentatious chap who chose to sit diagonally across the table from me. Given that the train was far from full and the availability of alternative solo seating options, I was a little perturbed, but given the pile of notebooks he subsequently produced, I was somewhat relieved that he clearly intended to keep himself to himself throughout the journey ahead. It subsequently became apparent that he was somewhat a budding (or perhaps successful?) poet as I nosily snooped at his notebook - whilst referring to a ream of notes, he was penning a poem entitled ‘Life in a Mirror’ (as such, he shall be referred to as the Poet).
Cue the arrival of a rather generously proportioned lady who decided to choose the pair of airline seats immediately behind me (to be known as the Noisy Eater for reasons to follow). With a great wheezing effort, the Noisy Eater piled an abundance of carrier bags on to the window seat and proceeded to perch quite precariously on the edge of her seat, leaning awkwardly toward the gap between the neighbouring seat and my own. As the train set off from the station, and after much rustling and commotion, the Noisy Eater tucked in to a packet of crisps (you may have gleaned from my previous reference to the Bacon Sandwich Lady, I am more than slightly prickled by noisy/messy eaters, particularly those choosing to do so in public). My concern here however didn’t centre solely on the rustle, crunch, smack and ferocious finger sucking between each mouthful (as an aside, why do finger suckers ever think it is a good idea to share their food?), it was the fact that her chosen and frankly unnecessary ‘edge of seat whilst leaning forward’ stance created a greater proximity to my ear.
In an attempt to somehow curb the behaviour, I made a great show of leaning forward away from the offending goings on, throwing in a generous mixture of audible sighs, tuts and frowned expressions for good measure. Despite my stellar performance, the Noisy Eater - clearly finding the whole affair quite amusing - merely snorted, chuckled and continued on with her feasting. Finally, as she crumpled up the empty packet and slurped on a drink, I breathed a sigh of relief and sat back in my chair - raising a knowing smile from the Poet.
However, just as I began to get lost in my book, the Noisy Eater produced a further packet of crisps and proceeded to repeat her performance! After this process had been repeated a number of times it became apparent that Noisy Eater had a family sized multi-pack of crisps at her disposal, and had every intention to consume the whole lot during her journey.
Reaching the end of my tether (in a typically British way) I turned around and having gained eye contact, tutted and proceeded to turn back round whilst shaking my head in disdain. This again raised a chuckle but this seemed to be the final straw for the Poet who proceeded to pipe up ‘if you really must munch your way through all of those, please have some thought for those unfortunate enough to be sitting around you, and do so quietly’! Cue a small cheer from those within earshot and a rather hasty exit by the Noisy Eater who set off pursuit of alternative seating.
I am not condoning a cause for belittlement or victimisation, but it does raise the concern that some people (dare I say most), clearly have no thought for their fellow traveller. Travelling (especially at peak commuter times) is a necessary chore which can be a useful time to get on with some work, catch up on some reading or most ideally, prepare for/wind down from the working day - so that you can arrive at your destination in readiness for the rest of your day/night ahead. Having some level of regard to those around you (be it personal hygiene, loud music, loud telephone calls or some other form of anti-social behaviour) just makes the whole experience more tolerable and perhaps enjoyable (light and vista playing a key role here arguably).
So to the noisy eaters out there – if you really can’t wait to tuck in to that meal/snack until you have disembarked from the train/bus, spare a thought for those around you (especially if the snack is noisy or pungent) who may not enjoy your feast quite as much as you…