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The Tale of the Train Clipper and the Sauna Flosser

I was on the commuter train into Manhattan and the guy next to me started clipping his nails. Usually I’m not shy about saying something when a person violates such a social norm, but the last time I came across someone conducting personal grooming in public, it almost exploded into a fist fight.

I was at the gym. I’d just completed a great workout and I walked into the steam room for a few minutes of heat and relaxation. What transpired next, occurred in a flash of discord, a sequence of emotional reactions.

My gym has a cozy steam, it’s tight when four people are in there. An older man sat just a few feet away, flossing. The steam blurs everything and at first I assumed I had it wrong, but no, he was a Sauna Flosser.

I shut my eyes and tried to ignore him, but the sound of floss sawing between teeth was too loud.

I wanted to say something, but what do you say? Instead, I shook my head and walked out mumbling, “This is unbelievable.”

As the door shut behind me, I heard the guy cry out, “Asshole.”

Anger bubbled inside my belly. I could not control the rage at this guy’s arrogance. I turned around and opened the door. I popped my head back into the sauna and said, “You’re the asshole.”

I turned and headed for the shower, hands shaking, wondering if this prick was going to emerge from the sauna for a fight. But he remained in there. I showered and changed, never seeing him again.

And so when confronted with Train Clipper, I just shook my head and ignored him. But someone across the aisle wasn’t so reserved. He said to the guy, “Do you mind not clipping your nails, that’s disgusting.”

At that point, I couldn’t help myself, knowing that if this did erupt into violence, the odds were now in my favor. “I have to agree,” I chimed in.

The Clipper mumbled something, did two more nails and then put his clipper away, acting as if we were the dicks.

What amazes me most about these two is their conviction that they do no wrong. Sauna Flosser believes he has the right to shoot bits of food from between his teeth into the steam room and Train Clipper thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to send nail pieces flying across the aisle of a commuter train.

Is it me, or nowadays, do people think they have the right to do what they want with no obligation to worry about how their actions impact the community? What type of society have we become? Or has it always been this way?





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