TMI (Disorder?)

WARNING: Portions of this post may be offensive to some readers. Discretion advised.

As I’ve mentioned on several occasions, I use the city bus to get to most places. There are a few benefits to this:

  • I have unlimited transportation for $25 per month.
  • I don’t have to cringe every time gas prices go up.
  • I can’t be pulled over for speeding or other minor traffic violations.
  • I don’t have to pay extra for insurance or maintenance.
  • Instead of fighting traffic, I relax with a book while I get where I’m going.

While there are a few downsides as well, the benefits far outweigh them in my opinion.

  • If it’s raining, taking the bus is a bit inconvenient.
  • Texas summers are very hot, which can make waiting for a bus unpleasant.
  • Sometimes I need to do more shopping than I can carry back on the bus. Even that’s not a real problem, though; I only do it about once a month, and then I just take a bus to the store and call a taxi for the return trip.

But the single most annoying thing about riding the bus is being part of a captive audience for people who either don’t know or don’t care that perfect strangers may not want to hear about all their personal business.

Why are some people perfectly fine with shouting into cell phones about their STDs in front of a bus load of perfect strangers? And what makes some people think that it’s OK to strike up a conversation with a stranger, using the fact that they were just released from jail as an opener?

Oh, I’m not exaggerating. Not even a little. These are some of the least disturbing things I’ve heard on the city bus.

Today I had to sit for forty minutes while some loud mouth on the bus talked non-stop to two other people, but loud enough for everyone on the bus to hear. Not only was I completely uninterested in the conversation and annoyed by his lack of consideration, toward the end of my trip, I had become quite uncomfortable with it all. Allow me to share with you some of the things that I now know about a perfect stranger:

  • He was born in a women’s federal prison.
  • He lived with his grandmother until he ran away at age fourteen.
  • During that time he got into trouble with the law and did time in a juvenile facility.
  • As an adult he was arrested on drug charges (dealing) and all of his personal property was seized.
  • Because of the drugs, his girlfriend’s two children were taken into the State’s custody and placed in foster care for a year.
  • His driver’s license is currently suspended because of a DWI for which he is also on probation.
  • He now supports the two children (not his) who they recently got out of foster care.
  • He also has a newborn baby (his) who is currently sick and whose mother won’t take care of her.
  • He would have another baby by a former girlfriend, but she had an abortion.
  • He thinks big screen TV’s impress women, and hasn’t a clue that prison stories do not.
  • He thinks it’s best to have children when you’re very young so that you can be finished raising them “by the time you’re thirty” (apparently he sucks at math).

I’m not here to judge this man in any way except to ask why in the world does anyone think it’s OK to tell all this to an audience of perfect strangers?

I’m sure it could be argued that he was never properly socialized. Look at his life. I’m not lacking compassion here, I just don’t understand. Could it be that everyone who does this kind of thing has a similar hard luck story? If so, why are they only able to learn socially unacceptable behavior while remaining unaffected by the behavior of almost everyone else?

Without going into detail, my life hasn’t always been… quiet, shall we say? I’ve been through quite a lot that I could use as an excuse to behave badly, or in a socially unacceptable way, but I don’t. And I understand the concept of “a time and a place”.

Sure, “acceptable” is a relative term. But I believe (dare I say “know”?) that there are a handful of things that the majority of civilized people will agree are socially unacceptable, even in spite of religious, political or cultural differences. And I think that one of those agreements is that there really is a point at which casual conversation, especially in public, crosses the line into TMI (too much information) territory. I’ll go a step further and say that I think there might also be a consensus regarding what constitutes crossing that line.

Am I wrong? Is it OK to talk in public about your latest STD and the fact that you’re sterile because of it? Is there nothing at all wrong with talking loudly about your irregular periods and bleeding so heavily that you can’t leave the house for several days, all the while having to fight off your boyfriend who wants you anyway? Is it socially acceptable to discuss other people’s abortions (or your own)? Your sex life (or someone else’s)? Your current method of birth control? The fact that you’re on parole and living in a halfway house? Is it really fine to talk about all these things within earshot of perfect strangers?

Obviously, the people doing the talking don’t mind spilling their guts about every personal detail of their lives. It’s clear that they’re perfectly comfortable telling all. But what about the people being forced to listen? Do they matter? Are the people who do all the talking unable to detect the cues and signals of discomfort or lack of interest given off by other people? Would this constitute some sort of thought or social disorder? Can we call it TMI Disorder?

At the very least, isn’t it just plain rude?

If you’ve read this far, thank you for taking the time. I hope you don’t think I’m intolerant or overly judgemental. I just do not understand this kind of behavior. The questions are not rhetorical, either. If you would like to share any thoughts at all on the subject, I would welcome and appreciate it.

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5 responses to “TMI (Disorder?)

  • Mike

    You’re entirely right – it’s rude, inconsiderate and demonstrates poor socialisation. Unfortunately, the disorder seems to be some kind of modern pandemic…

    I’m off to watch Dr Who. Hurray!

  • Ariane

    Where have you been all my life, lottie!!!!

    I couldn’t agree more about this. I hate, hate, hate people talking into mobile phones in my aura, especially when they have to blimmin’ shout. I dread the day they allow these modern methods of torture on aeroplanes. Can you imagine it? “I’m on the plane! No….the PLANE! Remember I told you I was coming???? I’ll be there in about ten hours!!!” Then they call their next friend…and so on….

    It’s very common in The Netherlands to have several people all shouting into their phones at once in the train or bus.

    And really, why on earth do people think that the excruciating minutiae of lives are so interesting to the rest of us? I can barely strike up enough enthusiasm for my own humdrum existence…. ;p

  • Lottie

    Hi, Ariane! It’s good to see you again. Sorry I haven’t been by your blog lately. I’ve been thinking of you, though.

    Glad you liked the post! Thanks for commenting. 😀

  • bellatrys

    (via Feministe)

    I had a woman on the bus poke me and talk at me while I was wearing headphones until I took them off to see if she needed serious help, so that she could as it turned out, complain to me about how strange men online wouldn’t respect her boundaries in chatrooms. Which I agreed was bad, but – dammit, lady, you’re doing exactly the same thing you complain about, with nary a clue that maybe I was wearing those headphones for a reason, like maybe I wanted to listen to my music and work on my book…

    Mature adults of “nice”, well-heeled background are just as liable in my experience to “share” all kinds of things with total strangers that really shouldn’t be, for a variety of reasons, based on years working retail at a craft shop frequented by soccer moms, and in customer service in an industry catering to businessmen. (No, I DON’T want to hear you talking about your vasectomy, I don’t want to have to imagine you having sex, where’s the brain-bleach?)

  • Lottie

    Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your comments. Kind of puts to rest the notion that it’s a “class” issue.

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