Day 302 Risk: Read Over A Stranger’s Shoulder

Public transit during rush hour presents an intriguing social experiment, where strangers pack themselves into cars like herded cattle, bags bump into one another, strange body odor wafts freely, and yet everyone gets completely engrossed in something other than their fellow riders.

There are certain unspoken, at times ridiculous, codes to riding public transit during rush hour:

1. Don’t talk to strangers unless something wacky happens, like the conductor suddenly giving a weather report (hilarious when this happens).

2. You pretend that certain things aren’t happening, like the guy singing along with his music or the fight happening between two travelers.

3. Personal things, even when blatantly put out there for the world to see (like intense phone conversations) are still considered personal.

Oh CTA. How you baffle me.

I know this code and mostly follow it, but Friday I was so tired and frustrated about having to ride the train during rush hour that I couldn’t help myself when a girl’s phone kept dinging obnoxiously with every incoming text. I had to see what was so interesting. When you break the code, you run the risk of someone noticing. In this case, I could have angered the girl whose shoulder I was reading over or received judgment from another rider. But I thought, screw it; I don’t really care.

I was standing a little behind her and, trying to not be too obvious, I casually looked over her shoulder to see what she was reading. It was kind of difficult to decipher, since I was catching the texting mid-conversation, but what I saw was mostly work related. I wish I could say it was something juicier, but it was pretty boring. It did distract me though; the ride home went by a lot quicker.

Eventually a seat opened up and I opted for comfort over trying to finish reading whatever this girl was gossiping about. No one seemed to notice my breaking the code, or if they did they kept the code and didn’t give any sign that something was amiss. I felt a little guilty at first, but I quickly got over it when her phone dinged over and over and over.

Another part of the code I forgot to mention is the acceptance that doing something private in a public place leaves you open to people knowing your business. If you don’t want that to happen, just read the paper.

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