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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Sunday, December 10

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Random Wed Feb 11 2009

Eating on Buses and Trains: What Are the Rules?

The other day, when I was on a CTA bus home from work, I was faced with a daunting challenge. As it was approaching my usual meal time, I was getting pretty hungry, pretty fast. At a stop halfway home, a well-clad middle-aged lady got on and took the seat next to mine. Beside a black handbag, she had a Jewel-Osco plastic bag, which she put on her lap. As the bus lurched forward with the green light, she promptly fumbled in the bag and took out (gasp!) a big bunch of celery. I looked on from the corner of my eye, curious to see what she'll proceed to do. With a determined hand, she yanked off a stalk, put the rest back in the bag, snapped the stalk in half and started to crunch her way through the celery. An enticing aroma of fresh celery wafted to my nostrils. I love celery. Now I was getting really hungry.

While my stomach grumbled for its share (mere foot from hers at that), she happily chomped on. She wiped her fingers on a piece of napkin, and took out a resealable bag of Tyson's pre-cooked chicken breast strips. It was probably something like Italian herbs & garlic, because it sure smelled like one. She popped one in her mouth, chewed, swallowed, and then popped another. She continued on for a few minutes in this fashion, and decided that it was time for more celery.

She spent her entire bus ride switching from celery stalks to chicken breast, and then back. By the time she got off the bus, I didn't have any concentration left to remember anything I was reading. The words were just floating past my eyes (which were busy sneaking glances at her oddly healthy meal-on-the-go). The smell of garlic-infused meat teased my hungry stomach with malice, and I found myself rather grumpy. (Getting grumpy when hungry is one of my biggest weaknesses, I admit. It didn't help that I'd had a longer-than-usual day at work.)

I'm usually not too finicky about people eating on public transportation, and I myself occasionally eat on public transportation. This celery lady, though, seemed a bit beyond what's okay in my book. And yet, when I tried to figure out why it was not okay in my book, I didn't really know why. Is that the smell of the garlicky chicken? Is that just the sheer absurdity of an entire bunch of celery? It seemed to get even more complicated when I tried to come up with a generalized rule for what not to eat on buses and trains. If the crunchy celery is no good, then why an apple seems okay?

What's your thoughts on what's okay to eat on public transportation? Should we be allowed to eat anything as long as we don't leave a mess behind? Or is there a limit to what we can eat on buses and trains? If so, what are the standards? And what do these standards imply about our attitude toward eating?

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Lisa Shames / February 12, 2009 9:34 AM

I lived for a short time in Spain and found that there no one ever ate on the buses or subway. Same for when walking. Wonder if there's a connection between our eating all the time/anywhere mentality and weight problems.

J / February 12, 2009 10:34 AM

I think it's not allowed on the CTA trains technically. Metra you can do what you want.

The League for the Suppression of Celery / March 6, 2009 7:58 PM

Etiquette aside, I think she might have actually been putting everyone in danger with her wild celery antics. Did you know in Europe they have to put warning labels on anything that has celery in it because it can cause people severe allergic reaction? This is how we in America are turning a blind eye to the dangers of celery, the devil's vegetable. This and many other horrors can be discovered at the official website of The League for the Suppression of Celery.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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