Hey man, I get it. Times are hard. Everyone needs a little bit of stress relief. Some of us are falling back into our old bad habits or are seeing our compulsive behaviors increase. Some of us have started drinking more, or again. Some of us find that little things are igniting our anger these days.
I’m no stranger to bad habits and compulsive behavior myself. I’ve found that my already existing rage for household order has intensified during this quarantine. I’ve become more obsessive about neatness in my living space than ever, attempting through my maniacal cleaning efforts to achieve some sense of order and control in my domestic space when the rest of existence feels so out of control right now.
The point being: everyone is metabolizing this time of crisis in different ways, and we should afford ourselves and others some grace for the ways they find to cope, even if those ways aren’t always healthy.
But seriously? Public nose-picking during a pandemic? And at the airport? And then eating the boogers? If you’re going to go furiously digging for gold—either because it's just a bad habit or due to some larger psychological reasons—can’t you at least excuse yourself to go do it in the bathroom, or wait until you get to your destination to start plunging your digits into your nose holes? Do you really need to pull your neck gaiter down at the JetBlue gate and start spelunking your nostrils and ingesting the findings right then and there?
As someone who has never been a booger eater either during pandemic or non-pandemic times, I find the behavior hard to relate to. But as someone prone to anxiety-induced compulsive behavior, I can empathize, if indeed this nose-picking of yours is an anxiety or stress-induced behavior. But also damn dude. Can’t you just contain yourself at the gate and then pick away in private at a later time? Did we really all need to be privy to your rhinotillexomania right there as we waited for our flights? Yes, a lot of food purveyors were closed in the airport that Sunday afternoon and options were limited, but I still managed to get some chicken wraps from a CNN Newsstand. While the sandwiches weren’t great, they were arguably better than the mucus tartare I saw you feasting on where you sat.
Yet while what you were doing was revolting and unsanitary, I couldn’t help but feel a perverse sort of admiration. Your public performance of mucophagy mesmerized me. I found myself rapt by the recklessness of it, by your dogged determination to excavate and then eat every last morsel from your nasal cavities as you sat there watching something on your phone and waiting for boarding time.
When you sat down and started embarking on your one-man booger banquet, my girlfriend was talking to me but I didn’t hear a word. I was entranced. At one point, sensing you were being observed, you lifted your eyes from your phone screen and looked over in my direction and we made eye contact. Usually when someone catches me staring at them, I quickly avert my gaze, but in this case I found myself unable to look away. I felt a mixture of loathing and begrudging admiration for you. What you were doing was unhygienic, but you also appeared to be completely unfazed by the fact that you’d been caught in the act, as evidenced by the fact that after we locked eyes you turned your attention back to your phone and promptly continued picking.
Your brazenness intrigued me. Maybe you know something the rest of us don’t. There have been studies indicating that eating boogers can actually bolster the immune system. Perhaps you’re at the vanguard of some unorthodox method of immunotherapy to combat COVID, some underground mucophagy movement. Maybe you’re an innovator, prepping your immune system by dining on your own crusty mucus excretions. Maybe Dr. Fauci will come out soon and suggest that we all start hoovering our boogers to protect against the disease, although perhaps he will add the caveat that we try not to do so in public places.
Or maybe you possess some sort of paranormal ability to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus through the taste of your own mucus, and unbeknownst to me, you were actually performing rapid testing on yourself before your flight. Apparently multiple samples are needed.
But I’d like to take a moment to circle back to my previous point: At the fucking airport? Again, I get that nose picking and booger eating can be stress-induced behaviors, and we live in stressful times, and going to the airport in the midst of a pandemic is extremely stressful, but what the fuck, man? You don’t need to make it even more stressful for others by openly picking your nose. You just had to do it at the gate, where you’re going to then get up and put your booger hands all over your luggage, then get on the plane and touch the armrests and tray table and overhead bin with your mucousy fingers?
Believe me, I know that cutting back on compulsive behaviors is difficult, but if you would like I could introduce you to some diaphragmatic breathing exercises you could perform when you feel the urge for olfactory exploration arise in a public space. Maybe some 4-7-8 breathing, or perhaps you would find a guided meditation helpful. The compulsion for said booger diving must be quite strong if even being spotted by me and the fact of a global pandemic couldn’t deter you from dipping your distal phalanges into your nostrils and then eating the extractions in the middle of the airport.
All of this is to say: as someone with my own mental health struggles, I feel for you. Or at least I feel for you if your behavior is a symptom of your mental health struggles and you’re not just a guy who really likes eating his own boogers in front of other people. In other words, I feel for you if your mucophagy is really pathological and not merely gustatory preference.
But also again as someone with psychological struggles of my own: Dude, lock it up. Or if you really can’t refrain from dining on your own nasal delights for a few hours while you travel, at least have the courtesy to take the buffet to the bathroom stall next time.