Return of the Man from “Phlegming”

In over 2 years of riding the DC Metro daily, I’ve had a few run-ins and even rants about my fellow passengers. I’ve been delayed because a thief ran down the tracks, but people still envy my 50 mile commute (really it’s more like 60).

But I need a break from riding mass transit. Sure, it’s nice to be able to work on homework on the train (if you can get a seat and aren’t afraid of someone stealing your laptop), but I’m tired of seeing the depressed faces all around me, and vying for that extra inch of space. Luckily I’ll have that break soon (a story for another post), but today reminded me why that time can’t come soon enough.

The Man from Phlegming

No, I didn’t misspell “Fleming”. I intentionally spelled it with the root word “phlegm”, because that’s all I could picture on my ride to work today.

There was a man on the train, just a few seats back from me, who, for the entire 30 minute ride before I transferred trains, opted to attempt to remove the mucus from his chest area with the most disgusting “cou-coughharumphhummhummhummcoughharumphhmmmmhmmmm“. Sorry if it’s difficult for you to imagine that noise, but that’s the best I could describe it. All I could think was “Dear God, please release that stuff he’s trying to get out so myself and my fellow riders can be relieved of this sound”. While I could have moved, there were no seats left and standing longer than a couple minutes still causes my sciatic nerve to really hurt. A number of riders DID move to the other end of the train though.

And I called this his “return” because it appears this is a seasonal disorder afflicting the man. A year ago, I recall getting on the train (same front car as I always ride) and sitting through about 3 minutes of this “cleansing” before moving to a different car. There’s no mistaking it was the same man. It’s now his signature, and I bet he doesn’t think it’s distracting or disgusting at all. He’s probably had to live with the problem so long that it’s become normal for him.

I can’t get that sound out of my head!

So as a public service announcement to all of you who ever go out in public, if you’re having sinus drainage problems, please go to your local pharmacy, get a bottle of Mucinex, go home, take it and stay there till the mucus is all gone. I don’t mind some throat clearing, but when I’m a captive audience (thanks to my back problems), I’d rather not hear long, drawn-out harumphing for a half hour. Thank you.

About the author

Clever Dude


  • Really? It’s not cool to be judegemental. Yes, I’ve been next to people like that before, yes it’s not pleasant. No I don’t think they should stay home so they don’t bother me. I don’t know their circumstances. Maybe they can’t afford the doctor or medicine. Maybe they don’t get any leave from work. Maybe they have psychological disorder. Maybe they are just clueless.

    And maybe I annoy others without knowing it.

  • I used to work with a guy who thought nothing of clearing his sinuses and spitting into the nearest wastebasket. Even after we confronted him about it (very delicately, too) he continued to do this. Many people just don’t care how they’re perceived, whether it’s trimming their fingernails at their desks, talking loudly on the phone, etc.

Leave a Comment