Hi Last Days.
I'm from Seattle but currently live in Paris, where I regularly see all sorts of foul things. I often read your column online, and once even brought a copy into a class full of 14-year-old French kids I was teaching, as a lesson in "colloquial English." It seems that most of the time I agree with your moral stances on things and I don't tend to take offense to the humor pointed at people's misfortunes, as long as those people seem obviously bad, psychotic, evil, fascist, etc. But I don't get the public grooming bit. Maybe I have been in France too long, and really have adjusted to a smellier, less hygiene-aware, and much-more-likely-to-pee-on-the-street-in-broad-daylight populace. But I don't understand why one woman picking her nose is worth as much as something really fantastically awful, like someone putting a baby in a microwave. Both are yucky, but for some reason the public grooming descriptions have a kind of "point and laugh at the retard" feel to them for me, or "point and laugh at the nasty homeless guy who hasn't showered." Like I said, I see foul things all the time but I don't think these things need to be recounted. Is there a philosophy behind the inclusion of these in the column? Or a story behind it? Is it just so that people have a place to share their disgust?
Thank you, Claire
Dear Claire, thanks for writing. The tradition of including hideous public grooming sightings in Last Days was born of a desire to pay tribute to the astounding things people will do in front of their fellow humans. The experience of the innocent-bystander viewer is key: Much of the mindfuckiness of being subjected to someone's mid-bus zit-popping session comes from the zit-popper's assumption that everyone will pretend to not-see what they're seeing. Recounting such events in Last Days anonymously shames/celebrates Seattle's etiquette-flouting public groomers (whose exertions are occasionally framed as outsider performance art) while giving witnesses a chance to acknowledge and commiserate over what they were forced to see.
As for the picking-on-homeless-retards vibe, I try to avoid it by not picking on developmentally disabled homeless people, and instead focusing on the misdeeds of seemingly functional "normal" folks, such as the subject of this recent sighting reported by Hot Tipper Robert:
Hey there! On Saturday, 1 May 2010, at approximately 12:30 pm, my hubby (Anthony) & I were standing in line to pay for a few things at Green Lake PCC, when I noticed the customer in front of us. She seemed normal and clean enough from the start, until she scooted off her right flip flop, lifted up her foot to just above waist level, and proceeded to stand there in this bad hygiene-laden yoga-like stance, picking between her toes while the cashier finished ringing up her goods! THEN, she dug her debit card out of her purse and paid for her small order of groceries! I casually reminded my hubby of this later, while reminding him that he'd used the same keypad she'd fingered her freshly-picked toe-funk all over!
Just thought Last Days would like to know! Peace, Robert
On a personal note, the conflating of etiquette transgressions to Major News Events makes my heart smile, and readers seem to enjoy the comic relief. From the comments posted to last week's Last Days:
For more on the shaming of etiquette scofflaws, see Violation Report. (And keep sending your hideous public grooming sightings to email@example.com!)