Subway catfight sparks debate about eating etiquette on trains
Friday 25 March 2011
video of a spaghetti brawl on the New York City metro system has ignited debates around the world about eating etiquette in the subway.
Transit officials for New York City briefly floated the idea of banning food in the metro, after a YouTube clip surfaced late last week of two transit riders engaged in an ugly catfight over a Styrofoam tub of spaghetti.
The video starts rolling mid-conversation, as a young woman tucks into a takeout container of pasta and a middle-aged female rider chastises the girl for eating on the subway.
"What kind of animals eat on the train like that?" the woman can be heard saying to the girl across the aisle in disgust.
"What kind of fat b---s look like you," the girl fires back.
After a bit of verbal sparring, the feud escalates and requires a couple of male passengers to separate the two riders who have resorted to fisticuffs.
Days after the video was posted and went viral, board members at a transit meeting floated the idea of banning food on the subway, a proposal that drew swift and fiery reactions from the public and was quickly dismissed.
But the latest food-related incident has traveled around the world and sparked debates between subway riders in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia.
Currently, cities like Chicago, Washington DC, Singapore and a single line in Beijing have a no-eating food policy in place.
A story in Canada's national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, generated 258 comments with many divided along 'meal' and 'snack' lines.
"Eating a light snack on public transit, say a granola bar, chocolate or something similar, is fine. These are reasonably clean and do not require excessive crunching or produce much noise when eating," wrote Girl Interrupted. "I draw the line at meals requiring cutlery..."
Karl the Yank, wrote in the UK's Daily Mail, "This is one of the reasons I moved out of NYC. All day long you see rude, common, aggressive and classless acts...New York is no longer what it used to be."
According to New York Magazine's Urban Etiquette Handbook, eating on the subway has a rudeness factor of 9 out of 10, "[b]ecause subways were practically invented to send your sloppy foodstuffs onto the shirts and laps of the people around you."
London-based etiquette authority Debrett's, which publishes books on modern manners, offers the following tips for subway riders:
Always offer your seat to those who need it more than you do.
Be tolerant if sudden lurches. Apologise if you're the perpetrator, and smile politely if you're the one being crushed.
Remember that proximity heightens tension and amplifies your behaviour, so be considerate if using a mobile phone, eating, drinking, listening to music or carrying outsized luggage.
Keep conversations with travelling companions quiet and discreet.
If a fellow passenger wrongs you, ignore it and avoid confrontation.
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