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Faux Pas Pill

Before I explain the etiquette breach, I must explain why it happened. I was recently diagnosed with a GI condition that requires medication to be taken three times a day, while I try to do this in private, there are times when I must simply take a pill when I am on public transportation.

I was riding the bus home from work, and realized that the time meant it was time for me to take my medication. I opened my purse, took out a pill and took a small sip of water and resumed listening to music.

Then I became aware of someone tapping my shoulder and saying “Excuse me miss?” very loudly. I took off my headphones and saw an older man who looked very annoyed with me, and before I could ask what faux pas I had committed he demanded to know what I had just put into my mouth. This left me stunned and I stuttered that it was medication, hoping that this would suffice.

Well no, it didn’t. Instead he began yelling at me for poisoning my body, making myself more ill than I already was and I was also extremely stupid for seeing a doctor when there were remedies from the “Far East” that EVERYONE knew about. He had me blocked in so that I could not leave my seat without physically putting my hands on him.

I was used to people offering uninvited medical opinions when they knew I was ill, and many people, while well-meaning were rude, off-putting, unhelpful and ridiculous, I’ve never had someone feel so strongly about it that they needed to block my possible exit, yell at me and call me stupid.

Thankfully, two passengers came to my aid, one grabbing the man and moving him away from me and the other flagging the attention of the bus driver who promptly pulled over and told the man to get off the bus immediately.

I thanked all three and went home, feeling extremely confused and upset.

What he was unaware of is that I suffered from this condition for 7 years, I was originally ignored by my doctor and only when I switched doctors did this new doctor take me seriously, and she referred me to a GI specialist who ran several painful tests and finally determined the condition. My GI also worked with me in finding a medication that worked, with minimal adverse side effects and I cannot thank both doctors enough for helping me live a normal life.

I do not believe my behaviour was extreme or attention getting in the slightest, the pills are extremely small and a bottle of water cannot garner that much attention. I honestly don’t know what the best course of action would have been.

I understand the world of medicine is something that people often feel very strongly about, but this was unacceptable.    0803-11

I’m beginning to think I need to add a new category to the blog entitled, “Medical Malpractice”.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Silvia August 11, 2011, 5:43 am

    You did nothing wrong. Let’s say that after a hard day at the office you had a headache & needed to take an aspirin, there still would not be anything wrong with it. You had an even more imperative reason for taking your medication, but that’s not important in this story

    You were obviously very shaken by your encounter with a lunatic. What he did was way beyond rude and it was bordering on criminal. I’m glad that your fellow riders & the bus driver intervened on your behalf and that you weren’t hurt.

    Don’t feel guilty in any way, you didn’t bring this on yourself. The odds of this happening again are slim (keep your eye out for that particular individual and stay away from him.)

  • lkb August 11, 2011, 6:01 am

    Wow! I’m sorry you had to go through that and I’m glad that you found doctors and medications that helped and happened to be near three bystanders who put themselves in harm’s way to protect you!

    I can only suppose that your attacker (and you were verbally attacked) was mentally ill. I’ll pray for him.

  • J's Mama August 11, 2011, 6:04 am

    I’m going to assume that man is mentally ill. No normal person would confront a stranger for taking medicine.

  • TychaBrahe August 11, 2011, 6:30 am

    My sister and I stopped in Starbucks this past weekend and my sister ordered some coffee thing with Splenda. The guy next to her at the counter started lecturing her on the dangers of Aspartame.

    My sister is better behaved than I am. She said, “Thank you. I’ll think about that,” and we walked out to drink our drinks in the car instead of lingering in the store. I probably would have oh-so-kindly informed the “gentleman” that people who don’t know that Splenda is Sucralose, not Aspartame, probably shouldn’t be giving medical advice.

  • The Elf August 11, 2011, 6:39 am

    This isn’t rude. This is crazy. You can’t stop crazy.

    I’m glad two passengers came to your aid. If they hadn’t, you should have called out for the bus driver to call the police. That he was blocking your exit and yelling at you raises a big red flag: he’s dangerous.

  • Wheelchair Bling August 11, 2011, 7:18 am

    Yes, as others have said, you will sometimes encounter mentally ill people on the bus, since some of them can’t drive. It’s unfortunate that you happened to trigger his obsession, but fortunate that other people were around to help you.

    Thank goodness your illness can be controlled with some pills! I wish that was true for all illnesses…

  • Tara August 11, 2011, 7:23 am

    You didn’t do anything wrong, OP. But you were on public transit, so you should know that crazy people ride the bus with you. The guy was a nutcase, so don’t worry over it. It’s an amusing story to tell people now. 🙂

  • Jennifer August 11, 2011, 8:03 am

    Add me to the chorus of “you didn’t do anything wrong.” I have medication like that that I have to take at specific times – but my work schedule isn’t consistent day to day. So I have to take it on the bus all the time. Here’s a secret: there are lots of crazy, crazy people on public transportation. It’s okay.

  • Lucy August 11, 2011, 8:04 am

    I vote for “mentally ill”. I’m not saying that to be flippant–I really think that’s the only logical explanation.

    That said, I know this was freaky, but don’t give it any more thought. You definitely didn’t do anything wrong, and you can’t control who rides the bus with you. He would most likely have done the same thing had you just gulped something as innocuous as an antacid tablet, or maybe if he caught you “self-medicating” with Gatorade after a workout.

  • elicat August 11, 2011, 8:05 am

    I agree with the other commenters, OP. This man sounds like he was mentally ill. Please put it behind you. And btw, I completely understand about your GI history, as I have one myself. There’s no need to apologize for having to take pills to control it.

  • Phoebe161 August 11, 2011, 8:10 am

    Kudos to your rescuers & the bus driver. Happy to hear that your doctor was able to prescribe something effective to treat your condition.

    What is up people nowadays? This is at least the third story posted in about a month about rude people making inappropriate “comments” about medical conditions.

  • Xtina August 11, 2011, 8:11 am

    This guy is crazy in the non-insane sense, but I’d prefer to call him militant. Militant to whatever kind of philosophy he subscribes to, and one of those types of people who feels it’s his mission to “better the world” to the tune of his views–anyone who doesn’t agree just doesn’t GET IT, and needs convincing. Obviously nobody has ever taught him any manners, and he is dangerous; not afraid to get physical. OP, you have done absolutely nothing wrong and you have nothing to be ashamed of. I dare to say if someone had confronted me like that, I don’t know if I could have held back from hauling off and knocking him one in the heat of the moment! At any rate, you handled it very well and I’m glad that your bus had people on board who acted appropriately.

  • AMC August 11, 2011, 8:13 am

    I agree with others that the OP did nothing wrong. There are many medications that must be taken at precise times each day in order to be effective. (Birth control pills come to mind.) It is absolutely no one else’s business what medication you’re taking.

  • Hellbound Alleee August 11, 2011, 8:20 am

    Yes, you encounter that nonsense on a bus, and for the most part you can sort of curl up with a newspaper (unless they get physical! Sheesh!) But the medical advice from family and in-laws, that’s one that can hardly be avoided. I will try to remember this myself: never offer unsolicited advice. I happen to be getting more than my fair share myself. Sorry this happened to you!

  • Chocobo August 11, 2011, 8:26 am

    This man doesn’t sound like he has all his faculties. I know that doesn’t really help to know when you’re being confronted with it in your face, but certainly the OP should not feel any guilt about taking needed medication in public or any such nonsense. Thank goodness for the other good Samaritans on the bus.

  • Athena Carson August 11, 2011, 8:39 am

    /agree with Silvia and others above.

    You are fine. If it’s not rude to have a snack or drink coffee on public transportation (and it’s not), it’s not rude to take a small pill and a sip of water. Especially in a commuter culture where you spend chunks of your time in public while going to and from wherever.

  • Pixie August 11, 2011, 8:46 am

    I don’t think he was crazy. Some people are just jerks. Simple as that. He thinks he knows more than any doctor and it is HIS job to educate the world. Sorry you had to experience a person like that.

  • Psyche August 11, 2011, 8:47 am

    I don’t know how to drive, so I take the bus everywhere. I can vouch for the insanity of many of the fellow riders. I’m also a young woman with an…alternative bent, which means I seem to attract the most insane of the bunch.

    One time, I was waiting for the bus, reading my book and listening to my music. A seemingly innocuous-looking homeless woman said hi. I said hi back. I was wearing my typical uniform of black pants, black boots, and black t-shirt of one of my favorite bands. I also wear a dog collar and a black leather wrist cuff with a design that looks like corset lacing. I don’t get much grief on the bus because I don’t wear makeup and my hair is it’s natural color. This is important to the story.

    Suddenly, she starts screaming about me a devil worshipper, how I’m going to hell, etc. I turn up the volume, hoping she eventually calms down. No such luck. She then starts claiming that I must be a nice girl, but my *music* is corrupting me. And she starts pushing me! I decide to walk to the next bus stop. As I’m walking away, she calls out, “Jesus loves you!”

  • Asharah August 11, 2011, 8:49 am

    Seriously, I would say the man was not only mentally ill, but was probably refusing to “poison” his own body by taking whatever medication had been prescribed for him.

  • acr August 11, 2011, 8:54 am

    It would be one thing to TELL someone about “remedies” from the Far East. That’s rude. But the physically blocking? That’s crazy. I enjoyed reading this story, not b/c the OP was frightened (anybody would be!) but because the two bystanders and the bus drivers acted quickly and effectively. Can we file this in Etiquette Heaven?

  • Clair Seulement August 11, 2011, 9:06 am

    OP you are going *way* too far out of your way to justify this. The guy was *crazy*, plain and simple. I had a guy getting off the subway give me the finger because I refused to look when he exposed himself in front of me.

  • Wink-n-Smile August 11, 2011, 9:12 am

    Thank goodness for those people who helped you and a good bus driver who made him exit the bus. So many people would have just hunkered down and thanked the Lord it wasn’t them he was harrassing. Including the bus driver.

    I’m glad there are still such good people in the world, and while I was saddened by the nutcase, I was uplifted by the others. Thanks so much for sharing that.

  • moved2maryland August 11, 2011, 9:25 am

    Imagine what that nut job would have done to my friend who is diabetic and has been known to test her blood sugar and inject her insulin at the table in a restaurant? I can also imagine the new orifice she would have ripped him, too.

    Sorry you had to put up with a lunatic and gold stars to the people who stepped in to help.

  • Kitty Lizard August 11, 2011, 9:28 am

    Nuts are everywhere. Two years ago I suffered a small stroke. It affected my short term memory, made me forget who I was talking to, made me lose my place in the middle of sentences, left me with aphasia (which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy) and left me with a gait like a drunken sailor. (I would suddenly lurch to the right when I walked.) You have no idea who cruel people can be. I had been in AA for five years. I had called my sponsor from the hospital and explained what had happened. When (a month later) I finally showed up for my usual 8 a.m. meeting, and they saw the new me, my sponsor dropped me and I was summarily kicked out of the group, after being accused of coming to the meeting drunk and on drugs. This is a small town and the gossip was terrible. It took close to four months for the medication to kick in, and I wound up hiding indoors for close to six months until I was semi-normal again. I never went back to the AA group. The symptoms have totally cleared up and I feel great but I’ve never forgotten the treatment I got.


  • Cat August 11, 2011, 9:37 am

    There are all sorts of people with odd ideas and you met a very vocal one. I know of a case in which a young woman knowingly parked in a business parking lot where parking is restricted to customers only, and then went elsewhere. When she returned, the owner of the business explained that he had to restrict parking as the lot was small and he needed all the spaces for his customers. He asked that she not park there again. He was a bit brusque, but was controlled in his speech.

    You’d think she would be happy that he didn’t have her car towed as he could have done. Nope, he had what she considered a “Jewish” surname so she went home, called a local synagogue, and told the rabbi that this was why there is so much anti-Semitic feeling in the world. She was shocked that he was not grateful to her for calling and explaining this to him.

    Your fellow passenger probably cannot understand why you were not equally grateful for his caring concern. If you had not been rescued in a timely manner by others, you might have thanked him for the information and assured him you would look into it immediately…and then run for it at the first opportunity.

  • alli_wan August 11, 2011, 9:41 am

    I agree with the others. You weren’t the only one on that bus who needed medication.

    This really isn’t an etiquette breach so much as a mentally ill person who is not properly cared for.

  • Louise August 11, 2011, 10:05 am

    OP, I’m sorry that happened to you. You did nothing wrong; the fault is the man’s.

    I’m really glad to see that two passengers and the bus driver stood up for you.

  • Abby August 11, 2011, 10:34 am

    I agree with the above commenters. Of course the OP did nothing wrong, and the guy who confronted her seems unbalanced. I’m glad other people intervened and the bus driver made him leave, but that encounter would shake up anyone.

  • nannerdoman August 11, 2011, 10:45 am

    I’m sorry you had to go through this. I concur with the PP’s that this unfortunate man is almost certainly mentally ill. I used to ride a bus with a woman passenger who told anyone who would listen–as well as those who wouldn’t–that everyone should learn to speak English and that she was “BORN in this country!!”.

    Glad you were quickly rescued, and that you’ve found effective treatment for your illness.

  • Ashley August 11, 2011, 10:47 am

    I always try to be discrete when I take any pills outside my home. I never take anything stronger than Tylonol which I try to take as infrequently as possible. But I too had an incident where someone yelled at me for taking a pill rather than trying acupuncture or something. I wasn’t even on a bus, I happened to be at a restaurant. The woman yelled at me as if I had been snorting cocaine right off the table. It was awful. I was too flabbergasted to remember what I said, I think it was something to the effect of “It’s my body, and therefor not really your concern, because your not my doctor.” and then the manager had to come get her to leave me alone.

  • Twik August 11, 2011, 11:04 am

    I’m not sure it’s a mental illness in a diagnostic sense, but some people do seem to feel a compulsion to bully people about their medical choices, whether alternative or conventional.

  • DGS August 11, 2011, 11:04 am

    You did nothing wrong; this person was clearly mentally ill. Unfortunately, you can’t always predict what kind of behavior you may encounter on public transit.

  • Serenity August 11, 2011, 11:17 am

    I have a very simple way of dealing with people like that – I tell them it’s none of their business, and turn away from them. You never have to justify your actions to a stranger. And while he may have been mentally ill, as some have suggested, he may have also just been your average, everyday opinionated busybody.

  • David August 11, 2011, 11:54 am

    You did absolutely nothing wrong, it was none of his business whether you took medication or not.

  • Wildrose August 11, 2011, 12:00 pm

    Don’t you know that everything from the ‘Far East’ is awesome? They are the font of all knowledge! *sarcasm*

    Really, what is this obsession with the ‘Far East’?

  • Lizza August 11, 2011, 12:08 pm

    You didn’t do anything wrong here. There was absolutely no reason for him to ask about or comment on what you were taking. And I agree with others – the yelling and blocking you in is a red flag for danger. If you see this man on your bus in the future, avoid him or perhaps try to sit close to the driver so you can get their attention if necessary.

  • Psyche August 11, 2011, 12:21 pm

    A thought: Remind those people who go on about miraculous Far East remidies that they include bear bile, ground up rhino horn, and the private parts of tigers.

  • Riri August 11, 2011, 1:01 pm

    I would count the man’s actions as harassment. You shouldn’t have to explain yourself to him. You’re totally in the right here but as long as you’re not doing anything illegal or disturbing, it’s none of his business! He’d have no right to bother you like that even if you were popping crayons in your mouth -_- I think Admin should add the “Medical Malpractice” category.

  • --E August 11, 2011, 1:06 pm

    The best course of action would have been, upon being asked an entirely rude question, to reply with “That’s none of your business. Get away from me.”

    Obviously not an easy answer to have on the tip of your tongue, if you’ve been socialized to think of the feelings of others before your own. You have a purse, so I assume you are female, which means your entire life has been a pile-on of messages that your boundaries are not worthy of respect and you shouldn’t stick up for yourself.

    The day I got over that training (and sometimes it still pops up when I least expect it, dammit) was the day I started saying, flat out, “Go away” to strangers who believe their desire for attention trumps my desire to be left alone. It’s very difficult to begin, but it gets a lot easier with practice. (At this point, it’s downright fun. When you go off-script, people don’t know what to do! Watching them wander away in confusion is AWESOME.)

  • ellesee August 11, 2011, 1:13 pm

    Hooray for the people who came to your rescue! It’s really not anybody’s business what you’re putting in your mouth. It could be tic tacs–still not their business.

    I think that guy has some sort of crazy. Nobody sane that I know refers to Asia as the “Far East.”

  • Michele August 11, 2011, 1:20 pm

    Not an etiquette issue – the guy was clearly disturbed in some way, perhaps mentally ill. I am sorry this happened to you. How upsetting!

  • Leslie Holman-Anderson August 11, 2011, 1:36 pm

    I agree, Admin — a ‘Medical Malpractice’ category would be great!

    As for the nut jobs who feel free to tell you how to run your life (and other offensive types) many years ago an older co-worker passed on her simple trick: you draw yourself up, look down your nose at the offender, and in your frostiest tones say “Madam (or Sir), you are forgetting yourself!” One of the reasons it works is that nobody talks that way any more. perhaps more of us should…

  • Elle August 11, 2011, 1:38 pm

    There’s *always* a crazy on the bus. If you can’t figure out who it is then odds are you’re the crazy on the bus that day.

  • Serenity S. August 11, 2011, 1:51 pm

    OP, don’t worry. You were not rude at all. It is not rude to take your medication in a public place. That stranger was the one who was rude. Luckily, you met three Good Samaritans as well.

  • Sarah Jane August 11, 2011, 1:54 pm

    I’m sorry this happened to you, OP.

    After reading the several posts lately about people vocalizing their attitudes about others’ medical conditions, I’m tempted to propose the following: Let’s all start wearing t-shirts that read, “Please mind your own business.”

    Nah, that prolly won’t work, either.

  • Rug Pilot August 11, 2011, 2:03 pm

    Dr. Rug prescribes a large dose of Thorazine for the man and confinement to a secure mental hospital of my choice for the rest of his miserable life. 😉 I attract drunks, druggies and crazies, too. I am attending Al-Anon meetings to try to get rid of this trait.

  • MidoriBird August 11, 2011, 2:45 pm

    Of course it is not rude in any sense to take medication in public!

    I work in a large food court and people come to me all the time and ask for a cup of water and say apologetically, “I have to take some medicine.”

    What is there to apologize for? They don’t even need to tell me what they need the water for. It’s free. I smile, hand a cup, and all is well.

    I must carry my inhaler on me at all times in my pocket, and if an asthma attack strikes while I am at work, I do try to hold out until I can get a moment to myself and duck into the back area, but I’ve had a few occassions where if I don’t use it NOW!, then I’m going to be on the floor. How it looks to others is the last thing on my mind in such instances….fortunately, they are fairly rare.

  • Angie August 11, 2011, 2:48 pm

    Glad there were people there to haul him off you.

    This reminds me of one time when I was grocery shopping when my kids were small. I was putting jars of baby food into my cart, when some total stranger came up to me and started lecturing me on how horrible baby food was for my child, and I should be buying the ingredients myself, pureeing them and putting them into ice cube trays.

    Which I know is a good way to do it, but it’s nobody else’s business how I choose to feed my child as long as I’m not buying them something that’s harmful. I live in Canada where there are very strict rules on what goes into food at the grocery store, among the most stringent regulations in the western world. I just said, “Thank you, I’ll think about it,” and walked away.

  • YWalkalone August 11, 2011, 4:15 pm

    @–E: you are my new hero! I wish I could like your comment 1000x.

  • Raven August 11, 2011, 5:29 pm

    I don’t understand why everyone is saying this person is mentally ill. Every day we come to this website, read, and drop our jaws at the rude, uncalled-for, selfish behaviour of other people; this is no different. Telling someone to try different medication is no different than telling someone to throw you a baby shower or uninviting your spouse from a couples event.

    Yes, *some* acts of rudeness can be a sign of mental illness, not all…and not all people with mental illnesses are rude, either.

    It seems to me that this person was pushy, arrogant, blustery, an obvious bully, and irritated that OP wouldn’t listen – not that I’m blaming OP at all, I’m just guessing at the rude person’s perspective.

    To the OP, as everyone else has said, you did nothing wrong. Your meds are your business. I think it’s great there were people around willing to help you out, too; yay for the kindess of strangers. 🙂