F is for Flight-mare: When Public Grooming REALLY Crosses the Etiquette Line (EWWWW)

by Janine on 27 July 2012 · 65 comments

Turns out there is something worse than getting stuck in the centre seat on a long flight. Getting stuck next to a passenger who uses four out of five hours to paw through her hair and pull out the greys (along with a hefty number of darks by mistake), for instance. Oh, public grooming, how you do disturb.

Yes, I apply my makeup in the back of a cab. I’ve been known to apply it in hair salons. I used to apply it occasionally on the TTC, but stopped because a) I am actually aware that self-grooming in public can quickly cross that etiquette line, especially when there’s a crowd of people around, and b) I’ve developed a fierce taxi-travel habit (partly because it’s a less crowded place in which to throw on my makeup).

This woman on yesterday’s flight from Vancouver to Toronto had planned for this grey-hair-plucking-session. While other passengers were still boarding, she had her mirror set up on the tray-back in front of her, her tweezers in hand, and, next to the mirror, a piece of paper upon which to drop evicted strands. She ignored the pre-take-off announcement — an attendent had to remind her to put the tray back up just before lift-off — then started again as soon as we were in the air.

When the refreshment carts came around, she folded the discarded hair in her sheet of paper and slid it into the seat pocket of the seat in front of her… and resumed as soon as she’d finished her snack.

I avoided looking over for the most part. When I first realized what she was doing, I exchanged a glance with the woman on the other end of the row (she was smart — she soon either fell asleep or pretended to doze for the rest of the flight). Mostly I focussed on my laptop (which I kept far away from my neighbour — I just didn’t know where that hair was going to land). I think it was hour three when in frustration I decided to snap these photos.* She didn’t notice; she was too engrossed in her task.

Am I overreacting in my distaste here? What’s the ickiest public grooming thing you’ve seen ? Wait — maybe I don’t want to know.

*After a discussion on the ethics of posting these public grooming photos, Staff and I decided to run them because, although they’re icky, they don’t show the woman’s face.

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Be Sociable, Share!

{ 22 trackbacks }

27 July 2012 at 12:50 pm
Nathalie Atkinson
27 July 2012 at 12:52 pm
Tara Tucker
27 July 2012 at 12:55 pm
Lena Suliman
27 July 2012 at 1:20 pm
Lesa Hannah
27 July 2012 at 3:20 pm
Carley Fortune
27 July 2012 at 3:30 pm
Brett Walther
27 July 2012 at 3:40 pm
Nathalie Atkinson
27 July 2012 at 4:35 pm
Nathalie Atkinson
27 July 2012 at 7:19 pm
Julia McEwen
28 July 2012 at 12:31 am
Jill Dunn
28 July 2012 at 12:35 am
Jacqueline Kovacs
28 July 2012 at 2:08 pm
29 July 2012 at 5:29 pm
Health Is Wealth
30 July 2012 at 3:20 am
Go on and grin « Health & Swellness
2 August 2012 at 1:15 am
Flying Diaries #2 | The Blog On a Stick
2 August 2012 at 7:59 am
Please do not ever do this. Ever « Ladylike
3 August 2012 at 8:21 am
3 August 2012 at 1:03 pm
3 August 2012 at 4:59 pm
3 August 2012 at 5:00 pm
Six Grooming Ways to Be a Better Traveller
13 November 2012 at 1:12 pm
What's Behind Today's Public Grooming Habits?
27 November 2012 at 8:00 am

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Angele @shoeboxbegone 27 July 2012 at 7:26 am

gross. gross. I once worked with someone who cleaned out ear wax with his car keys. bleurk.

Doesn’t she know for each hair she pulled 10 more will com in their place (a myth, I know…) It would probably be easier to give in to a stylist and get her hair colored. #justsaying :) Great post! (though I do feel bad you had to live through that!)


Danielle 27 July 2012 at 7:32 am

People are seriously disgusting. I’ve seen toenail clipping, teeth flossing, nose-picking, and hair brushing all happen on the TTC. Maybe I need to switch to cabs too!


Lindsay 27 July 2012 at 7:34 am

COME ON. That is gross. I apply mascara and blush on the train. I feel like those are the more “elegant” cosmetics. But picking, plucking or poking is way over the line.


Wynne 27 July 2012 at 7:54 am

I pluck my grey hairs out too…but only in the privacy of my own home. It is indeed icky to do it in public, esp when you’re in close quarters with the ‘guilty’ party and you eat in the same spot. Love your “caught in the act” snap shots. What’s worse to me is people who clip their nails in public…not just to fix one chipped nail, but to clip off/groom all nails. That’s one of my biggest public grooming pet peeves. It gives me the heebie jeebies.


Koshka 27 July 2012 at 8:01 am

I have been known to buff my nails on the TTC, or apply cuticle oil from a pen, but that’s not icky. I have also been known to trim a nail if I’ve snagged it or something – but again, not icky. In emergencies I will apply lipstick in public. But plucking hairs on a flight?

…I once flew from Vancouver to Toronto beside a guy who had a girlie magazine and ‘read’ it for most of the flight. Plucking hairs seems tame after that. But still eeew.


Aggie 29 July 2012 at 12:37 am

I think nail buffing in public is gross.


Lily 19 August 2012 at 7:00 am

Cutting, buffing nails…that’s nasty. Don’t forget some of us have to breathe that in.


Janine 19 August 2012 at 9:37 pm



Rene 27 July 2012 at 8:04 am

Definitely the ickiest ever. You win. (Although that’s not really ‘winning’ is it? Yuck.)

And what about her putting the plucked hairs in folded paper in the seat pocket? Did she think she was being neat by doing that?

Ick. You poor thing.


lmc1971 27 July 2012 at 8:18 am

Just gross! Me, I would have said something….I mean really, I don’t think it would have been rude to say, “Lady, are you serious?”. Having said that, the light on the plane is spectacular and I’ve read that it’s a great place to do some brow grooming LOL

Better luck next time!


YouLookHotToday 27 July 2012 at 8:25 am

Don’t hate, Geek.

You should have been thrilled for her. Little do you know, that through the magic of Facebook, she’s recently reconnected with with a boy she first met 25 years ago. They were playing on the monkey-bars and somehow they knew they were made for each other. After 25 years, they’ve finally found each other and are flying to Toronto to meet. You know the story…

While you’re sitting there being grossed out by her endeavour to look younger, he’s on a trans-Atlantic flight wondering if she’ll still resemble the 6 year old he met at recess. He’s also using a pair of tweezers to pull out his nose-hairs. Every once in a while one of his super-long eyebrow hairs pokes him in the eye and luckily, he already has a pair of tweezers in hand to pull that out too. Be glad you’re not sitting next to him – he’s flinging that unwanted hair everywhere.

On their first romantic dinner together ever, he’s going to clip his toenails at the table. Bits of super-gross toenail are going to fly in every direction. She’s going to be so disappointed that the boy she fell in love with has grown into a man who can’t properly dispose of the results of his public grooming . She’s not going to be surprised when after dinner, he whips out a roll of dental floss and gets into every molar but she is going to fall back in love with him when she sees him leave his food-filled floss on the tip tray along with the signed credit card receipt.


Janine 19 August 2012 at 6:20 pm

How I wish that story could be true, You. Yet I’m so glad it isn’t. How do you not want to disinfect your brain after having imagined such a scenario??


paiiige 27 July 2012 at 8:41 am

BARF x100000000000000


Marilyn 27 July 2012 at 10:09 am

Can’t find words to really describe such uncouth behaviour.
Next time please look around and ask for a change of seat. What if she has creepy crawlies romping around due to turbulence in their normal habitat? Perhaps your quiet tolerance conveyed the wrong message to her that it was acceptable?


Janine 27 July 2012 at 10:12 am

Sadly, fully booked flight. The woman’s young daughter had to sit in the middle seat in the row ahead. Probably best she didn’t see what her mother was up to. Talk about a bad example.


Zoey 27 July 2012 at 10:16 am

OK that is so gross.


Procrastinator 27 July 2012 at 2:09 pm

Wow, I was once annoyed because a girl one row behind me was applying nail polish, but I can’t even imagine what I would do in your situation. Wouldn’t that be the most awkward “Um…hi…can you ask the girl sitting next to me to stop tweezing her hair?” conversation with the flight attendant?


lisa 27 July 2012 at 2:47 pm

That. Is. Disgusting.

I’ve been known to rub cuticle oil on my nails or blot my T-zone at my work desk. Sometimes I apply lip balm or lipstick at the table after a meal. But this, this is REALLY crossing the line.


Diana 27 July 2012 at 5:59 pm

I’m with Lindsay, ‘picking, plucking or poking is way over the line’.

I’ve actually had a clipped finger nail hit me in the face. Yup, no more public transit for me.

Sorry you were trapped in such a horrible situation for 5 hours. You’re a better woman than me. I would have said something.


Janine 27 July 2012 at 6:37 pm

I’ve certainly said something now! *grin*


Moe 27 July 2012 at 7:32 pm

Definitely inappropriate behavior but so was snapping a photo of her (whether her face shows or not). I probably would have put up with a couple of hair plucks but a couple hours is way beyond any kind of body grooming protocol for close quarters.


Janine 27 July 2012 at 7:40 pm

I behaved for three hours before I snapped. Literally. But point taken, Moe.


Aggie 29 July 2012 at 12:39 am

I think snapping a photo is ok.


Nikki 10 August 2012 at 5:22 am

If she can pluck her hair for at least three hours on the plane without concern for other passengers, she doesn’t really qualify for no photo-taking. Besides the photo doesn’t show her face.


Dot and Lil 27 July 2012 at 9:05 pm

I have major loose-hair-not-attached-to-people phibias, so this would have literally been a nightmare!! You poor thing! A girl next to me on a flight to Puerto Rico painted her nails once, and I couldn’t believe she was doing that in a confined shared space. Three hour hair plucking marathons are gross beyond measure!

And as for the TTC, last time I was on it someone spit directly onto my foot. Whilst I was wearing sandals. Yeah, not a great day. Though I’m usually a big transit supporter!


Dot and Lil 27 July 2012 at 9:06 pm

**And by phibias, I mean phobias, obviously. Sorry for the typo!


Charity 27 July 2012 at 9:13 pm

That’s gross. I have seen people in the park bite their toenails. That was pretty gross. And they didn’t seem to be homeless. Seemed well groomed. Was so disgusted. I know you get comfortable sitting in the park enjoying the sun, but come on. it was really gross.
On your post it boggles my mind that she would spend that many hours plucking out hairs!!! Hair dye please.


Nicole 28 July 2012 at 8:20 am

That seems an abnormally long time to be plucking grey hairs for. I’d be more worried about premature balding. I’m not sure this falls under the ick category for me but it does fall under the do not do in public category. I can forgive a quick application of makeup but Lindsay said it best: no picking, plucking or poking. The worst I ever encountered was standing in a cafeteria line behind a guy who chose that moment to clip his nails. I actually had to leave as I couldn’t get the image of his clippings flying randomly into food out of my head.


Laura 28 July 2012 at 8:24 am

I think I would have asked her daughter to swap seats with me if I were you. That way it looks like you’re doing them a favour ;) This kind of self absorbed public behaviour never ceases to amaze me. And I don’t think your photos are innappropriate, for what it’s worth.


Janine 28 July 2012 at 9:36 am

Couldn’t swap — bad shoulder dictates aisle on the right whenever possible. Plus had to work. But I thought about it. Then decided it best the daughter couldn’t see the example her mother was setting for her. And thank you re: the photos :-)


Shauna 28 July 2012 at 9:31 am

Yes, it is gross. I don’t mind women putting on makeup in public usually, but there are some other self grooming habits best kept in your own home. This is one of them. Another is NAIL CLIPPING on the TTC. That is disgusting also!!


Char 28 July 2012 at 1:10 pm

That is very unpleasant. No mistake about that. But have you heard of a disorder called Trich? Basically it falls into the OCD spectrum, and people with it can’t control their impulse to pull their hair. Kind of like a tick, or a germ phobia, and obviously kind of devastating since it can leave you with bald patches (or in some cases, no hair at all). Maybe this woman’s grooming habits were bordering into that territory. That’s a little easier to understand…it wouldn’t make it any more bearable for the people beside her, however.


Janine 29 July 2012 at 9:06 am

Actually, I have heard of such a disorder. And it’s possible something else was at play, a bit more than simply wanting to get rid of greys — she was so focussed, and it’s odd that she wasn’t fazed by where she was. But maybe she just didn’t care; some people are like that, too.


Donna Vitan 30 July 2012 at 9:03 am

I would definitely count this as crossing the line.


Mary Clare 1 August 2012 at 11:42 am



Prazzie 1 August 2012 at 7:25 pm

I read this, agreed that it was gross, then forgot about it. Earlier this week I read about Olivia Munn plucking out all her eyelashes to soothe her anxiety. I immediately thought about this lady. Maybe she is a very anxious flyer and plucking out her hair calms her down or distracts her?

I have to agree with Char about it probably being a disorder.


Janine 2 August 2012 at 1:36 pm

I actually have an acquaintance who suffers from exactly that disorder — eyelashes suffer when anxiety hits. And I do agree that something else may have been at play — it has to be when social norms are flouted in that way. At the time, my discomfort hugely outweighed any potential compassion or understanding. #i’mflawed


murt 2 August 2012 at 9:47 pm

Ya actually you could be right…. I pull my eyelashes once in awhile too – it just feels so good…….. But I think the eyelashes that come out are just the ones that were about to fall out anyway. I don’t pull too hard.


murt 2 August 2012 at 9:45 pm

Ew ew ew ew ew……… that is so gross… I think I might have said something to her actually, if I had been you.

I don’t know about some of the stuff that Lisa Eldridge describes in this video too — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQ0LjVp0fvs

A crowded plane is not a spa, and I would have a big issue with people using scented products – especially sprays – if I were sitting next to them on a plane.


Janine 19 August 2012 at 9:36 pm

I know from that video from Lisa Eldridge — did a post on it (here), and realized I don’t have the stones to try all that with a bunch of strangers in such close proximity. In the back of a cab, maybe…


christie 15 April 2013 at 10:14 am

It’s definitely not something I would do (I think the only thing I ever do is put lip balm on in public) but come on, disgusting and disturbing? It’s only hair strands they’re not going to hurt you.


Janine 15 April 2013 at 10:10 pm

It was revolting, Christie. Her hair wasn’t the cleanest, and imagine someone folding their pile of discarded tweezed hair in a piece of paper and sliding it into the pocket of the chair in front when the flight meal comes around, and then pulling it out again before you’ve finished eating. We all have our sensitivities — THAT, I found out, was one of mine.


Jo 18 May 2013 at 8:41 pm

I have been scrolling and scrolling just to find at least one empathetic commenter and I’m v.happy to have found at least one. Sometimes it’s best not too judge, as this individual may have an OCD related disorder , flying might have been a stress trigger for her. So dear readers, before we judge best to apply a little empathy. Social ettiquette vary considerable in diff parts of the world, and if this poor lady happen to break one of yours, there is no need to apply the ‘holier than thou’ attitude. I can’t even begin to imagine being terrified for hours, and Janine did mention she kept her ‘loosen’ hairs neatly in a tissue.


Leave a Comment


Previous post:

Next post: