The Intimacy of Disgust

Every day people sit on the bus and eat in front of me. It’s one of the more nauseating things I can see during the course of a day. Someone needs to do an ethnography of people who would eat on the CTA. The people who put their Popeyes or McDonald’s bags on the floor of the bus as they get settled and pull out the part of the meal they want to start on. There was the morning when the woman sitting at a 90 degree angle to me, directly in front of me, ate a whole bag of cheddar popcorn. At 7AM! Her fingers were turning orange. The popcorn kept falling down her shirt and onto the floor. If it landed in a crevice of her clothes, she’d eat it. The bus kept swaying back and forth and as she was inches away and directly in front of me, I had no choice but to look at her. With every mouthful, I came closer and closer to hurling. I was visibly wincing. Just when I thought it was over, she ties up the bag and pulls out a Hershey’s Oreo Cookie bar, made mostly of white chocolate! She took one large bite out of it after another. By the time she stopped, I was choking back the vomit.

Am I food phobic? I think not, though I cannot stand the odor of liver or bananas (I can eat bananas so long as I don’t have to smell them for long), or eggs. Am I germ phobic? Not at all. Perhaps it has to do with proximity. I don’t like strangers next to me, and if they are next to me and eating I need cleanliness to be regulated by serving staff and clean silverware. Yes, silverware is important to me, and by that I don’t mean the silver poles on the bus or the train that people hold on to with their cheddar dusted fingers as they try to keep their balance. I know that some people don’t like to eat in public, which is a class thing. I used to test one of my professors by offering her a mint from my tin of Altoids. It is possible that she was similarly disgusted by the phenomenon of the “unwrapped mint” as I am by someone who puts a bag from McDonald’s on the floor of the bus, but then again, I can’t recall ever having seen her eat in public. Someone needs to write an anthropology of disgust.

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3 Responses to “The Intimacy of Disgust”

  1. Zed Says:

    I don’t do this sort of thing for a living anymore, but isn’t there a huge bibliography in the field?Try Purity and Danger

  2. darknessatnoon Says:

    This isn’t about taboo. It’s about hygiene! Ok, my disgust is a product of taboo. I wonder if I’m masking my horror at the transgression with scientific jargon?

  3. darknessatnoon Says:

    On second thought, no, it’s just gross.

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