For some time now, I've bemoaned the disappearance of the private situation, the co-mingling of private affairs in public places. People insist on carrying on telephone conversations on trains, in waiting areas, in line. The other day, in the grocery store, I was behind a woman who yapped on her phone the entire time, ignoring the checkout clerk until the very end, when she ended her call and pretended he was a real human being.
However, it's not just the fact that people conduct private business in public. Some of them conduct that business in a particularly crass way. Two cases in point:
First, as I was in a Metro station, refilling my fare card, I heard a man complaining loudly that he couldn't get a machine to take his dollar bills, and that he was waiting for the station manager to help him, but the manager was on the phone, "probably with his wife." I sympathized with the man's unhappiness at his delay, but, really, he was just making himself look like an ass.
Then, a few days later, walking through the Metro parking lot to reach my car, I passed a woman on her cell phone. She was clearly unhappy with the person at the other end. I couldn't hear every word - only the ones she emphasized. From my perspective, her end of the conversation was a shouted, "S**t, you motherf****er,… f***ing [inaudible], motherf*****er!" By then I was, mercifully, out of earshot.
The Victorian era had its many problems, but one bright spot was its insistence on good manners in public. What goes on behind closed doors is your own business, but out in public it becomes everyone's business.