Things I Should Never Have to Hear That I’ve Overheard on the CTA

As a kid you’re raised with certain values, or rather, certain questions you’ve always wondered but were never allowed to ask. Questions about politics and religion that are considered “indelicate” when the family has company or the question that I can almost guarantee every little boy has learned the hard way never to ask, things like, “How old are you?” to a woman who isn’t your own mother. I mean, sure, maybe some topics are more out of bounds for me growing up in a somewhat conservative family, but someone’s got to draw the line somewhere. What follows are a list of topics I’ve overheard (yeah, yeah it’s my fault for eavesdropping, but one time it was for class, I swear) while riding public transit. To the average reader, most of them should be common sense, but it bears repeating anyway.

– STDs

I know that some people think that they’re the only ones on the train together so they share everything that they would, say, in the privacy of their own home. The fact that STDs ever come up in your friendship should probably be a red flag, but these two girls continued to discuss it like it was as normal as “What did you watch last night?” I wanted to gently tap one of them on the shoulder and tell them that I could hear them and that they’re actually called STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections as opposed to Diseases) but that seemed a little smug. Instead, I turned my iPod up as loud as I could. Wanna hear the kicker? The woman behind me asked me to turn my music down because she felt it was too loud, but that Sex Ed discussion that was happening in front of us? Nothing!

– Mouth Guards

Call me old-fashioned but corrective dentistry is just a weird topic to discuss while eating. I understand it may not seem that way to the married couple that was sitting next to me, but it’s just a little weird. i’m not saying it’s improper or inappropriate… it’s just kinda gross. This was back when my iPod was broken so that option was out, but seriously, have you ever heard someone discuss their mouth guard? It’s not particularly fascinating, but it was the sound of this guy sucking back his spit that kept me interested. Let’s face it, sometimes classic literature just doesn’t have the same pull as the personal train wrecks happening a few seats away from you.

– Bodily Functions (Babies)

Now as you can imagine, this isn’t about the babies so much as it is about their parents. In fact, I’m pretty sure if most babies could comprehend what their parents were talking about in public, they’d be pretty mortified. Now that I got that outta the way, let’s be clear about one thing. I love babies. I know that they’re not exactly able to control their bodily functions so I’m not hear to whine about that. It’s more the mothers who look at their children and say, “Did somebody make a stinky?” or “Does somebody need a diaper change?” If they could answer you, well, by then I’d hope they’d be potty trained. But who am I kidding? This isn’t for the benefit of the babies, this is about my discomfort at hearing some of the cutesy terms that parents come up for shit. Let’s just call it what it is and call it a day, okay?

– Bodily Functions (Otherwise)

Now I don’t wanna make it seem like I’m targeting the ladies so I’ll put this as delicately as possible… periods are gross. Well, not gross, they’re very natural, but the discussion of spotting is something that makes me a little uncomfortable when I hear about it on the el. Actually, no, I feel comfortable extending this into my personal life as well. Do I talk about my morning wood on the el? No. I get it, we’re all human beings and men and women have some unavoidable bodily functions. I understand all this, I just don’t understand why some women discuss it on public transit. The worst instance was a woman who was on her cell phone talking about how it was a “heavy flow day.” I don’t wanna hear that, could there really be someone on the other line who does?

– Sexual Conquests

This one, at least in my experience, is more for the guys than it is for the ladies. I know that you’re proud of yourself that you got some poor woman drunk enough to have pity sex with you, but believe me when I say that nobody else cares. Hell, I don’t even care enough to write on this topic much longer. Just remember that’s somebody’s daughter (or son, who am I to discriminate?). Either way, that really is a discussion best saved for your apartment or your frat house or really anywhere that I don’t have to hear it.


5 thoughts on “Things I Should Never Have to Hear That I’ve Overheard on the CTA

  1. I don’t ride public transit — but I have to say that I don’t have a problem with any of those topics. Not that I would talk about them myself, but aren’t you all supposed to pretend that you can’t hear or see each other in big cities? Isn’t that the polite thing?

  2. Reminds me of the time I was on the bus and this loud ugly fat woman in her 40s was giving graphic details on how she fucked some poor bloke last night over the phone. “Yeah, then I went down on him for like 10 minutes, I love giving head, don’t you?” Probably would have been sick on myself if I wasn’t shocked into a trance. People are rubbish.

  3. You have no idea how much I concur. After giving up my car for over a year and riding on public transit, the single mom express certainly sent me back into car ownership with a vengeance. The iPod was always on, as listening to stories of baby daddies and sexual conquests was more than any self-respecting girl could bear. I must say, I never experienced a mouth guard conversation. But I did manage to attract a few psychos…always fun…

  4. Crystalspins – Politeness only takes you so far when people are as loud as they are on the el. Emily Post dictates I shouldn’t listen in, but curiosity always seems to get the best of me… and then horrify me

    P. Levy – My sincerest apologies. That truly sounds awful. It’s times like those that make me consider taking a cheese grater to my ears just to make it stop

    She.Is.Just.A.Rat – I’m gonna hafta think up a nickname for you, but yeah, I feel you on the single mom express. I literally feel so dirty after I hear these things and I’m not a prude by any means, it’s just… awkward

  5. I don’t use public transit but I have the same experience at work where I am stuck for 10 hours at my computer hearing every sort of conversation I just don’t think you really want co-workers to know about. I wear a headset most days! But I must admit I do get a kick out of supervisors who talk trash about each other and other employees while sitting amongst the employees who often chime in to give their own nasty remark about whoever is on the chopping block. Now that’s professional! 🙂

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