Public displays of affliction

The train I get in the mornings is so inhumanely jammed with morose commuters that if someone is looking at something personal, say, a text or checking an email, they may as well just tap a fork against a glass, clear their throat and read it out loud as it’s guaranteed that, due to the combined factors of the space constraints making actually averting your gaze physically impossible and the sheer mind-numbing banality of being faced with otherwise reading the same Metro front cover 850 times over, the information will enter the eyes of everyone in the immediate vicinity and travel straight into their brains, whether they like it or not.

It’s for this reason I don’t do anything like update my Facebook status via my iPhone or BlackBerry while on this train. That’s also because I don’t have an iPhone or BlackBerry because I’ve chosen, like some sort of 21st-century denying pariah, to have a phone that only does phoning, and nothing else. Well, it does texting, and pictures – I’m not actually a Victorian. But you get my point.

Many other people do choose to do things like update their status on the train, however. A guy squashed into my face this week was a prime example of the kind of nonchalantly un-private commuter I’m talking about, and he may be responsible for the creation of what could be my favourite-ever Facebook status update. Here’s what I witnessed him keying into his iDooberry:

“Have you ever brushed your teeth so hard that one of the bristles has fallen off the brush and got stuck in your throat like a fish bone? It’s not good, trust me.”

No mate. No I haven’t. And, no, I’d imagine it’s not.

Due to an unsteady train and unsuitable lack of things to hold on to, I’d been performing some sort of balancing act/slow dance with this guy for about five minutes but I hadn’t formed a single opinion about him. He was even wearing a flat cap, like Arthur Daley would have done, yet until that moment he was inconsequential. But his bathroom revelation made me look at him in an entirely different light, and I immediately had loads of questions buzzing around my head.

Why had he had to brush his teeth so hard? How long had the rogue bristle been tickling his oesophagus? Most of all, why was it so urgent he did the update there and then, in front of an audience on the train? Was the bristle still in there? If so, was his status update actually a trendy, 999-snubbing modern-day call for help? Was he about to cough and splutter to his death right there in front of my face? Would I have to try Heimliching him back to life, shooting the offending bristle out across the carriage to spike some snoozing suit in the eye?

I never found out the answers – I got off at the next stop. But learning of that guy’s aggressive teeth-cleaning mishap has made me more aware of my own brushing technique. And more careful when eating fish. After all, I don’t own an iPhone, so if I ever find myself in a similar situation, how would my nearest and dearest ever find out about it?

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