I have been in a large number of countries in the last few years, and I have seen an absolutely astonishing variety of behaviors in those cultures. Often times the very same action considered good form in one place will be considered quite rude in another. I have learned that context is everything, and that knowing what is appropriate sometimes depends on a keen understanding, and sometimes is easily inferred. Even within an ostensibly single culture, there can be a great deal of variety, and mores and values will change overtime, precipitating new behaviors.
That said, I was fairly surprised to witness what I consider to be quite rude behavior at the Brooklyn location of my gym this evening. I had just finished my workout and shower and was getting dressed when I heard a click click sound. I looked over in horror to see a guy sitting on the bench next to me, clipping his nails gingerly over the bench, paying close attention to his fingers but seemingly none at all to the clippings themselves. I watched and listened as the clip, clip clip went on for several minutes, shrapnel flying every which way. When he was done he admired himself for a few moments in the mirror, then went to shower, leaving this lovely present for the rest of the members and staff. Convinced I was being Punk’d, I looked around for the camera crew, but alas, this was no TV show. I thought back carefully to the look of this guy. He didn’t appear to be missing a chromosome or from some (very) far away place, but clearly there was something amiss. Where exactly was he raised and by whom? I wondered if this was just his secret, shameful locker room activity, or if perhaps he did this in other places. Maybe over a bowl of soup at a nice restaurant in front of his girlfriend. Perhaps in church while his pastor bored him with something lofty. Whatever. I am just thankful that this isn’t my home gym, and it does push me ever so slightly to look for an apartment in Manhattan over Brooklyn.