On Monday, I was sitting at the gate waiting to board a flight. Three seats down from me sat a man in his fifties (I list his age only by way of saying, “He should have known better”). I was reading a book. He was staring forward. After a few minutes I heard, “click, click, click.” I turn and note that he was CLIPPING HIS FINGERNAILS. Yes, clipping them in public with total disregard that those little fuckers were flying around everywhere. But he was immune to my withering glance and carried on clipping.

I have to tell you that I do not want the fignernail clippings of someone who would clip in public anywhere near me. Where have those nails been? Is this even someone who washes his hands after going to the bathroom? I’m not much of a germaphobe, but nails are filthy.

Why, I ask you, would someone think it was okay to clip his fingernails in public? And this is not the first person who has done such a thing. Allen told me about a guy in his gym locker room who CLIPPED HIS TOENAILS–right out in front of God and everyone. Right where people were changing their clothes. Just put his foot up on the bench and started clipping.

I don’t get it.

All this is to say that it seems people are completely and utterly unaware of personal space and matters of hygiene.

As a far as personal space goes, I don’t understand how people think it’s okay to put their feet in my area when we are sitting next to each other on a plane. Do you think I might be feeling crowded as well as you, you space hog? And while I’m at it, that middle armrest is for both of us–it is not your domain. And, finally, you do not get to hang your elbow over my area and in front of my keyboard because you insist on writing on a table and having your laptop open. NO way.

Okay. So why don’t I just say something to these people? Normally, I would, but, to be honest, I’m scared. I’m afraid of airplane rage. I’m afraid of the seething mass of travelers breaking through the tenuous balance of civility and erupting into violence.

And so I act out in a passive-aggressive way. I push back, ever so gently on the feet. I squirm in my seat. I put down my tray table so Mister Elbow needs to move. I ignore the nail clipper and hope that he will not be sitting near me.

I don’t like to be passive-aggressive–it’s against my nature, but it’s what I must do to stay safe in this crazy, crowded world.

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