Since the happy day that Miss Manners took a fond leave of her senses and entered her present peculiar profession, sensitive but indignant souls have been complaining to her about their disgusting fellow citizens.
By every mail, she receives reports on who is sickening whom by doing what.They are not altogether pleasant to read.
But duty is duty, and Miss Manners gives proper attention to each unappetizing description of nose blowings, burps and worse. She then urges restraint on all sides, figuring that if she can encourage one group to employ human sympathy and the other clean handkerchiefs, she will have done something to alleviate the problem.
But lately it seems to Miss Manners that the situation has worsened. There has been a decided drop in the quality, so to speak, of disgusting things being done in public.
No longer are the offenses simply inadvertent physical phenomena, undesired and often unanticipated by their performers. There seems to have been a conscious decision by some - to the disgust of others - to liberate from private confines common routines that were traditionally performed out of view.
It constitutes a coming out, as it were, not from the closet but from the bathroom, which has long been considered the proper place for grooming and other bodily housekeeping activities.
Here is one examples reported to Miss Manners by one Gentle Reader:
"I find it totally obnoxious to work in an office with the smell of fingernail polish, but I have seen secretaries, as well as professional women, polish their nails in the office. I encountered the last straw a few weeks ago, at a first-class live theater. During the intermission, a woman in front of me had the audacity to take out her fingernail polish and paint her nails. I glanced around me, and others were looking at her in disbelief also."
The chief counter-argument, when one attempts to stuff all these offenders back into their bathrooms and close the doors on them, is lack of time. Their lives are too busy, their time too precious, to allow them to retreat from public view merely to do unattractive things to make themselves attractive to others. Miss Manners notices a little paradox in there somewhere.
Anyway, she does not accept such excuses. If your life is too full to allow going to the bathroom, there is something wrong with the life, not with the concept of bathrooms.
So the offenders go on to argue that as these activities are common, some of them ubiquitous, to humanity, the fastidiousness of hiding them is ridiculous.
As the natural extension of this point of view, large cities are increasingly reporting problems with public urination. Although the counter-argument there contains the legitimate complaint of a scarcity of public bathrooms, it also offers legitimacy to the abandonment of visual privacy.
Miss Manners finds this attitude dangerous, not to mention unattractive.