Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Snap, Crackle, Pop

I wish I were more tolerant. And, if I must be intolerant, I wish I could be intolerant about important things.

Instead, the thing I am absolutely frantically insanely intolerant about is something that harms absolutely nobody - it is the sound of cellophane wrappers crackling, brown paper bags rustling, crisp packets being delved into and food wrappings in general being undone.

Mostly, this intolerance of mine is inflamed on trains, but sometimes in cinemas and occasionally on buses. The culprit is usually a person just in front of me or just behind me, someone who decides they can't wait until they are sitting at a table before stuffing something edible into their mouths .

I know, I know, they are probably people under the most incredible pressure, running from one job to another, barely able to fit in a moment between dropping off the children at childcare and heading for their very important meeting on forward strategies for the external oversight committee on benchmarking the six-monthly performance appraisal development initiative.

But why are they sitting in the cinema then? Eh? Eh?

The curious thing - other than the fact that I can waste so much emotional energy on being annoyed about such an innocuous and harmless thing - is that someone rustling newsprint doesn't bother me, nor someone flipping through a magazine. It's only the noise of food being unwrapped or retrieved from its mini-sack that drives me to distraction.

I suppose it must be something to do with the ancient prejudice about eating in public that has been passed on to me by my elders and betters:  a winter's afternoon waiting outside Basingstoke station in a Mini with my father springs immediately to mind - two girls walk towards us and my father's face transforms into a mask of horror; "Fruit", he cries, "They're eating fruit. In the street"; you would think they were ... well let's not go into details; you would think they were acting in the most utterly depraved manner imaginable is an adequate summation of what you would think they were doing.

I wonder now if he would have been happier if they'd been eating sausages. Fruit certainly seemed to have struck him as the most unimaginably offensive foodstuff anyone could have chosen in that setting. Could it have been some kind of Eve/apple/Garden of Eden connection he was making? It's hard to imagine; I certainly never took him for a particularly biblical kind of man.


  1. If I remember it correctly, the Japanese movie "Tampopo" started off in a movie theater: there the movie has not yet started, and a man who had just opened a bag of chips is being threatened by a gangster with grievous bodily harm should make such a sound while the movie is running. That sort of thing probably works better if one can plausibly pass for a Yakuza.

    A possible explanation for your father's objection to fruit: anything but seedless grapes is going to leave something to be disposed of: core, peel, stone. And judging by the occasional banana peel I see along the street, not everyone is scrupulous about the disposal. Fast food produces a similar effect, so that one could probably find a convenience store or fast food restaurant simply by following the trail of discarded wrappers and cups, and perhaps estimate the distance by their density.

    1. Hmm. Thinking about it later, it occurs to me it has more to do with the Gill diet precepts; it was just something taught to Englishmen of a certain type, perhaps: