What is polite and what is rude?

Mar 11, 2009 Published under Anthropology, Introspection, New York City

On the subway this morning, a homeless man sat in a corner quietly scribbling notes on a newspaper, with all his belongings next to him.

No one else sat in that section of the subway.


The rest of the subway car was reasonably full. But there was an invisible line that kept newcomers from seating near the homeless man.


Was it out of respect that people gave him his space, recognizing this was his temporary home?

Or was it out of fear, repulsion or alienation?

How would you have approached it?

Sent from my iPhone – pardon typos

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  1. vivienne warszawski said:

    unfortunately the homeless often look as if they hadn’t had a shower in along time…which leads directly to an association with bad smell which might explain people’s reluctance to get upclose.

  2. Liz Brown said:

    People disassociate themselves from what is not socially acceptable, in doing so are actually protecting their beliefs and moral standing. The interesting thing is in doing so they deny themselves of the greatest gift and that is giving.

    I once was sitting with my family in McDonalds when a homeless man came in looking for scrapes; he was quickly whisked away by staff members that felt he disturbed the other customers.

    I was horrified, no person deserves this reaction. I went to the counter ordered what he had asked for and then gave it to him. I don’t know what has happened in their lives that brought them to this point but if I can give a little to make life better then I have done well because I am blessed not to have had their hardships and despair .

  3. Selena said:

    I would have sat next to him it really doesn’t matter to me if he is homeless or not we are all people.

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