We should come up with a list of our favorite pet peeves. As a New Yorker, I am driven to distraction by people who block the subway doors, who have conversations smack dab in the middle of the sidewalk, who walk down the street in threes side-by-side-by-side, who don't know the golden rule that if you stay the right (walking down the stairs, a corridor, the block) you are right. One of my biggest peeves is sitting near someone on public transportation who is eating hot food. If it's an untoasted bagel or a buttered roll, I can deal. But if it smells, I squirm. In the morning, it's not surprising to see someone dogging a heart attack special (ham/bacon, egg and cheese on a roll) or a Cuban sandwich.
Just imagine how uptight I get.
One of the most amusing things about pet peeves is the inclination to think that your friends, family and other like-minded, sane people will share them. One day, I called up my great pal Lizzie Bottoms to rail about food on the train, assuming she'd feel the same way.
I go, "Dude, what's your reaction when you smell food on the subway?"
"I get hungry."
I stopped cold. Jeez, I hadn't thought of that. Makes sense though. Then again Lizzie gets knuts when she sees people smooching and grabbing ass in public (PDA, public display of affection) where that generally doesn't bug me at all.
Anyhow, I was on the subway this morning. We were still way uptown and the car wasn't packed yet. An older gentleman sat two seats away from me. He was the kind of guy who looked like he was wearing a toupee even though, on closer inspection, it looked like his real hair.
He broke out a roll. I waited to see if a smell was going to soon follow, indicating that it was something warm. But it wasn't. Just an plain buttered roll. Soon, a high school kid got on the train and sat between us. The older man asked the kid if he was taking math in school. The kid mumbled a response which evidentally gave the older guy--who, it soon became clear, was not only touched in the head but a math teacher himself--permission to give a uninterrupted lecture on trig, Isaac Newton and all sorts of stuff about math I never wanted to know.
The poor kid didn't have it in him to tell the guy to shut up, so the old man went on...and on. I put down my book, unable to concentrate. The guy didn't have any interest in making a connection with the kid, just on hearing the sound of his own voice. I wanted to say something to him and then thought, ah, don't be such a hard ass, he's harmless. Still, I was dumbfounded.
Finally, the old man got up and left. I asked the kid if he knew him and he said no. Then I started in about how incredible it is that some people can just go on like that. The kid tuned me out just as he had ignored the old man.
The subway was now downtown. We were stopped at a station and the doors opened and closed several times before the conductor got on the p.a. and said, "Hey, the kid in the back of the train that's messing around, if you get killed, I get three days off, which is fine by me, so keep it up."