Why Do People Cut Their Nails in Public?

28 Jun

So today I was reminded of one of my biggest pet peeves:  people cutting their nails in public places, most notably on the subway.  This afternoon I dragged my exhausted self into the city for an appointment with an extra large, extra caffeinated iced coffee in hand, while reading an article on Alzheimer’s research (for those of you wondering, any sort of progress towards a cure seems sort of hopeless at the moment).  I was really excited that the R train came right away and that, even though the N had passed on the express track while I was two stops away from Atlantic Avenue, when I arrived I found it waiting there with open doors, inviting me to enter. I hustled across the platform next to an equally excited woman who was eating pork rinds.  I settled into my seat, drinking my coffee, reading my magazine, generally feeling happy about my insane train luck and then I heard it.  Click, click, click.  I have this like, really keen sense of hearing when it comes to people clipping their nails.  I started looking around the car to find the culprit and there he was, a young man, probably in his 20s.  He was sitting next to his girlfriend, hunched over, shedding his nails all over the train floor.  Yuck.

Before I get a little more into this, let me just say that if my boyfriend were to start cutting his nails in public I would break up with him then and there.  That, to me, is a sign of a complete inability to discern that which is disgusting from that which is not disgusting and I do not want to date someone who thinks that doing something disgusting in public is normal.  To me, nails should only be cut when you are alone, in the bathroom, with your hand or foot dangling over the garbage can to try and catch as many errant nails as possible.  It is then important to sweep.  There is nothing worse than walking around the house, feeling a prick on the bottom of your foot and then discovering that someone elses nail is stuck into your skin.  A guy I used to date used to cut his nails on the coffee table while he watched TV, collect them into a neat pile and then deposit them into the ashtray.  I had to leave the room.

Anyway, sometimes I think that people who cut their nails in public literally follow me around.  I encounter one such person in the subway at least once a month.  When I was on my way to New Orleans in late February, the woman in front of me on the plane was cutting her nails.  One time I saw a cab driver cutting his toe nails (thankfully I was not in the cab at the time).  I have seen them on the bus, on the train platform, I have seen nail clippers dangling from key chains.  These people are everywhere.  They are everywhere and they are always cutting their nails.  Do their nails grow faster than other people’s?  Are there just thousands of people who find cutting their nails in public appropriate?  What is the thought process behind this?  Do these people simply not notice that their nails are long when they are in the privacy of their own homes?  Are their lives that busy that they have no choice but to cut in public?  And why in the world do they have nail clippers with them on the go anyway?  Of all the things I might think to throw in my bag, nail clippers are nowhere on the list.  And then you have to wonder, do public nail clippers do other yucky things in public as well? Do they floss out in the open?  Do they pick gunk out of their belly buttons while sitting at a red light? Do they pop zits at the dinner table?  These are all things that I wonder whenever I encounter a nail clipper out in the wild.  These are all the questions I silently asked myself as I suffered through the click, click, click of a public nail clipping event just this afternoon.

Seriously, one of these days when I am on the train and this happens, I am going to politely approach the offending individual and ask him or her why.  Either that or I am going to siddle up next to the person, snatch the clippers out of his or hand, and throw them violently across the train, taking care to not hit anyone in the head with them because that would hurt.  I will let you know how this goes.

As a final point, I would like to quote from my friend Mandy’s response to my Facebook posting about this very incident:

“The cutting of one’s nails in a public place should be condemned openly and publicly. It is revolting and I don’t understand why people don’t know this.”

Mandy, I could not agree more.

16 Responses to “Why Do People Cut Their Nails in Public?”

  1. aeroplaneoversea June 28, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    I, too, think this is super disgusting and cannot believe how many people do this on the subway! (Although I haven’t seen this on the DC metro, Boston T, or SanFran Bart – only on the NYC subway.)

  2. gimpanova June 28, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    My god…this happens to me all the time, too! And I have so many of the same questions. One of your questions, though, I can answer. Yes, people floss in public…probably the same people who clip. It’s a practice I call “flossing and tossing”, and I blame the creators of the floss handle. My sister has devoted an entire blog to this:


    I will continue to marvel at just how disgusting people can be in public, and wish you luck on having fewer clipper encounters.

    P.s. I used to have a colleague who clipped every day in his office. Every. Day. How much can one really clip?

    • FranklyRebekah June 28, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

      The floss and toss?? Ohmygod HA!!!! That is hilarious and also one of the grossest things ever. And I will now start following your sister’s Tumblr because that is genius.

  3. jmeyersforeman June 28, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    okay i have pulled my nail clippers out on occassion, on the occassion of a broken nail, I figure it is better to give it a little clip, than to start chewing on it!

    • FranklyRebekah June 29, 2013 at 9:32 am #

      A nail file! Get a nail file! The noise gives me the shivers but at least it’s not public nail cutting!

  4. Jamie Wallhauser June 28, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

    The sound of clipping nails is revolting to me, even when I am clipping my own. With that being said, as long as I am alone my preferred clipping activity involves a coffee table, a small pile of clippings and an ashtray. If I should ever be fortunate enough to have a love interest again, I assure you they would never, ever see this activity. NEVER EVER.

  5. RobotGraveDancer June 28, 2013 at 11:52 pm #

    Rebekah? On a scale of 0 to 10 (where 5 is good), I’m going to give you a 9.8 for your reaction to people cutting their finger nails.

    This is not disgusting, although it may be littering, which is certainly reprehensible 🙂

    • FranklyRebekah June 29, 2013 at 9:30 am #

      Well, I will have to respectfully disagree. Dropping an empty bag of chips on the ground is littering. Dropping nail clippings is revolting. Click…click…click.

      • RobotGraveDancer July 14, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

        So clipping your nails in public is revolting, but filing your nails and creating a plume of aerosolized nail clippings that everyone on the train has to breath just gives you the shivers? I have to think that’s upside down.

  6. adlemsi June 29, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    I completely agree! Nail clipping should be done in the privacy of your home, preferably the bathroom. The clippings need to be collected, including a thorough sweeping of the floor, then thrown in the trash. It’s all about good personal hygiene and consideration for other people.

  7. John December 10, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    OK, the reason i found this is i was actually looking for someone else who thinks this is as vile as i do. My most recent was moments ago in a Panara in Chicago suburbs. Some a_ _ pulled this with me in my office one time… Seriously people, why not just pop your leg up on the table and start grooming your piggies too! I am not a prude, father of two very macho little guys, former active duty Marine myself. So i have seen it all. Just Wholeheartedly agreeing with the in-gracious nature of the perpetrators.

    • FranklyRebekah December 10, 2014 at 7:44 pm #

      Yea it’s totally nasty. Boggles my mind, really.

  8. marvelousmuse May 31, 2018 at 12:06 pm #

    LOL. I don’t understand the revulsion. What is the fear? What are you disgusted by?
    Were you all scared by flying nail pieces in your infancy? Did your mother tell you nails were smelly or germ-laden? Did you or any of your family ever bite their nails?

    I do not carry nail clippers or nail files with me and do not do this, but if someone else clips it doesn’t affect me any way. No revulsion. No joy. To me, it’s the same as reading a newspaper in public.
    I’m really curious what causes this and know we are all entitled to our likes and dislikes.
    Please help me understand!

    • FranklyRebekah May 31, 2018 at 12:42 pm #

      Wow this is an old post but thanks for the note!

      It isn’t a fear that I have I just think it is disgusting. I mean, my distaste for it admittedly goes very far – I don’t even like it when people cut their nails outside of the bathroom or even INSIDE the bathroom but with the door open. It just gives me the heebie jeebies.

      I personally don’t think it is like reading a newspaper because when you read a newspaper you are not spraying bits of alpha-keratin all over the area around you. You are just reading the newspaper. It’s just…that clip clip clip noise and a lack of understanding as to why people feel the need to do it on the subway trains. To me it is somewhat akin to picking your nose. People pick and that’s cool, but I don’t want to see it, you know?

      Hopefully that helped?

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