Avert Your Eyes

A recent post on Twitter really got my blood boiling.

A screen capture of a Tweet "Woman on the Train reading 'Bared to you'. Looked over and saw the words 'cleft', 'licked' and 'wet'. Not acceptable to read on the train.

I’m sorry, I missed the press release naming this clown the Minister of Appropriate Public Reading Material. Thus my reply.

 Screen capture of my reply. "Srsly? You CHOSE 2 look at her page. She didn't shove it in ur face. Srsly, a book is far less intrusive than some people's music"

I have done my share of commuting on subways, and trains. My book (especially on an e-reader) is NOT bothering you. The sounds screeching at top volume out of your ear buds? Those make me want to put my head in a toilet bowl and flush continuously. Alas, I tune it out for the sake of peaceful coexistence. Who am I to tell you what you can and can not listen to? I have different tastes and it is not my place to impose them on you.

I’m am an easy target for OSPTs (over the shoulder peeping toms). I’m visually impaired, so the fonts on my Kindle and iPad are set to XXL. A larger font, is not an invitation to partake. I don’t care if you can read it from four rows back. I can hear your awful music from the next train car, but I plug my ears. For the love of all that is written, DO. NOT. READ. OVER. MY. SHOULDER.

Sometimes it’s not possible, you are crammed in a rush hour train, nose to armpit with a few hundred of your “closest” friends. As you struggle to remain vertical as you surf the rails, your eyes fall on a page or a screen. Humans over the age of six, are programmed to read what is in front of them. A quick glance is one thing, prolonged gawking followed by judgment, or worse, a snarky comment (in person or virtual), is unnecessary. Don’t do it.

Is this me? Is this, my issue or do over the shoulder peeping toms bug you too?

Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. Her words have appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe.

20 thoughts on “Avert Your Eyes

  1. I agree with you that it’s not for anyone else to say what can or cannot be read. Reading is supposed to be a private pastime. He’s picked up a few words and deemed the whole book inappropriate. That seems a bit harsh.

  2. Hahaha, what’s more irritating than people who try really hard to peek on your cellphone screen to read the SMS you’re about to send to someone. So unethical, eh… tsk tsk,tsk.

  3. I’m with you! Keep your eyes to yourself then. I may not be politically correct but I am once again grateful I don’t have public transportation as an option. I’ll stick with my carbon footprint size 10 1/2.

  4. I had someone trying to read the text msg conversation i was having with my friend once… What is wrong with people.

  5. Read if you glance and see my reading material, but comment or judge??? Whoa! Who made you God or any form of expert? Minding your own business is much more virtuous than sniping at another person’s reading material.

  6. When people say, “patience is a virtue,” they speak the truth. When people advise that “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all,” it, too, is sound advice. When people follow basic social rules that give us each our space and don’t strip us of our basic private bubbles, it is good.

    I’ve never been on a subway, but I have been on a packed bus that would rival some countries’ transportation system. If I had to listen to people’s music blasting while I am not interested or ready to be exposed to it, I feel my rights to be alone in my likes and dislikes have been violated. I maintain as much physical and social distance to allow freedom to just be left alone, so I do ridiculous amounts of reading in public in order to disconnect (which is not to say I would not do that, anyway).

    If someone does not like what I am reading (my e-reader doesn’t vocalize the words I read and my book covers don’t have ‘inappropriate’ pictures splashed all over them), either because they happen upon random word/s on the current page or because they ignore title meanings (while reading Middlesex at work, someone asked me to close the book or cover the title because they thought I was reading something inappropriate), then they can simply follow a simple enough rule of thumb: LEAVE ME ALONE and look away.

    I agree with you. If someone is so offended by others’ choice in reading, which does not violate or compromise another’s auditory senses, then they should just deal with it and shut up, or look away.

  7. Honestly, once I put my nose in a book or anything else I’m reading, I can get so engrossed in it I don’t pay attention to who is looking over my shoulder. But if I were in that situation, I might be inclined to offer them my device and embarass the hell out of them by asking something like, “What have you read lately? Any secrets you wanna share? I’m a writer – perhaps they’ll make a good story!”
    I still have a flip-phone. Go ahead, laugh! 🙂
    Good luck to anybody trying to read a text on my screen!

  8. Well, if you’re gonna nitpick, I’m sometimes an “over the shoulder peeping tom”. I can’t help it. I don’t generally judge, and I certainly don’t comment. I once peeped someone reading a rape scene and shrugged to myself. It’s not like I haven’t read “distasteful” scenes.

    But while it is harsh to write off a book as inappropriate from a few words, it is equally harsh to write off a straight forward comment as rude or snarky, when I could see nothing impolite about the twitter comment. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion.

    While your reply is true too, you were the one who made it snarky. Perhaps (or probably, considering the limitations you shared) you have had some bad experience there. Understand I’m not trying to offend you. This is all just my opinion.

    I absolutely agree with you about people’s music, and I politely keep that to myself too. Maybe I’m a hypocrite with looking over people’s shoulders while I don’t like people looking over mine, but at least I understand both sides.

  9. Reblogged this on Kat's Salon & Lyceum and commented:
    My thoughts exactly! It’s funny that when I read over someone’s shoulder I never judge because I’m just so happy to have something to break the travel tedium! Peeping Reading Toms should keep their mouths shut & turn their comments off! Please read the following er logged post by Lee that handles Peeping Reading Toms appropriately …

  10. Reminds me of the commercial (not sure what product it’s for, probably Lens Crafters?) but the man at the back of the bus begins laughing simultaneously to the woman sitting 5 or 6 rows up. The woman looks back, and there’s an awkward moment of visible tension in the air. At least the man didn’t object to the material!

  11. I totally agree, Lee. Usually, those OSPT gawkers are the ones who are more preoccupied with the lives of others than with their own. That’s why there are so many mindless so-called reality shows on the tube. Both have become epidemic.

  12. I understand. i read on my daily commute. And more often than not I have somebody peeping in to see what I’m reading. It’s extremely annoying. But then again, I tend to do the same sometimes. I guess I’m a hypocrite then! And looks to me like you can’t blame both sides.

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