Sniffing at Courtesy?

About this time last winter, I remember sitting on the subway one morning – part of my routine commute to work.

I know I was sniffing, either because it was really cold that morning, or I had a cold – I can’t remember which.

I suppose I’d been sniffing excessively, because the passenger sitting next to me – a young man about my age – handed me a tissue to blow my nose.

I’d never had anyone do that for me before. He probably did it partially out of courtesy, but probably also because he just wanted my sniffing to cease. Looking back on it now, I honestly don’t blame him.

But reflecting upon it now, I appreciate the gesture. In fact, after it happened, I appreciated it so much that I wanted to extend the gesture to other people. 

A few days after that, I was sitting on the subway as per usual, when I noticed the female passenger next to me was sniffing.

I was hesitant, because the TTC is strange – cold and unfeeling, even – in that you very rarely come across people who don’t act all weird when you say something or make a gesture out of courtesy. I just didn’t want to start off my morning with cut-eye from a complete stranger.

And so, as the man did for me a few days earlier, I reached into my bag, pulled out tissue and offered it to her. She kindly accepted, thanking me. I was kind of shocked, actually.

Fast forward to last Wednesday. For whatever reason, I now find that people sniffing does kind of get on my nerves, as it was on this particular morning. As I was sitting in one of the single seats on the busy, trying to read, this high school student was standing over me, sniffing … and sniffing.

So, deciding to extend some goodwill and a Kleenex, I took my time and then turned, looked upward at him and said, “Would you like a tissue?”

The kid looked at me blankly, as if I started speaking to him in a man’s voice, in Czech.

I added, “I noticed you were sniffing.”

Nothing but the same blank stare.

“So you don’t want a tissue?”

He shook his head.

“Okay, then,” I replied, quickly muttering to myself, “So stop sniffing.”

I dunno if he heard the last part, because between the time I stopped speaking and the time he got off the bus a few minutes later, it seemed like he miraculously stopped sniffing.

Maybe I had the wrong approach. Maybe my offering wasn’t with the sincerest of intentions as it had been last year. Or maybe what works on a subway on its way downtown, just doesn’t roll on a bus driving through Scarborough.   

*sigh*

I’m SO getting an iPod.

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