Trolley Etiquette – Machado de Assis

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Machado de Assis would have turned 178 years old on June 21st. Here’s an etiquette guide he wrote back in 1883. Take note of Article II which sounds like manspreading.

How to behave on the trolley

It occurred to me to compose certain rules for the use of those who use trolleys. Between us, the development of this essentially democratic! means of locomotion requires that it not be left to the pure whim of the passengers. I cannot give more than a few extracts from my work; just know that there are no less than seventy articles. Here are just ten. 

Art. I – The throat-clearers

Throat-clearers can enter the trolleys on the condition that they do not cough more than three times within one hour, and in case of phlegm, four.

When the cough is so stubborn that it does not allow this limitation, the throat-clearers have two options: – either to go by foot, which is good exercise, or to go to bed. They can also go to hell coughing.

The throat-clearers that are at the ends of the row of seats should spit towards the street, instead of doing it in the trolley itself, except in case of betting, a religious or Masonic precept, vocation, etc., etc.

Art. II – Position of the legs

Legs must be brought in so that they do not disturb the passengers on the same row of seats. Open legs aren’t formally forbidden, but on condition of paying for other seats, and having them occupied by poor girls or underprivileged widows, and giving some small change.

Art. III – Reading newspapers

Each time a passenger opens a page he is reading, he should be careful to not lightly touch his neighbor’s nostrils, nor lift up their hats. It is also not pretty to lay the pages on the passenger in front.

Art. IV – Cigars

The use of cigars is allowed in two circumstances: the first is when there is no one on the trolley, and the second is upon exiting.

Art. V – Annoying people

Anyone that feels the need to speak of their intimate businesses, not caring about others, should first inquire from the chosen passenger about such confidentiality, if he is very Christian and resigned. In the affirmative case, one will ask him if he prefers the narration or to be kicked off. Being it probable that he would prefer the latter, the person should immediately strike them. In the case, however extraordinary and almost absurd, in which the passenger would prefer the narration, the proponent should do so thoroughly, heavily conveying the most trivial circumstances, expelling what is said, going over and over things, in a way that the patient swears to God to not be subject to it again.

Art. VI – Spitting talkers

The front row of seats is reserved for the emission of spitting talkers, save for the occasions in which the rain obliges one to change seats. Also they express themselves on the back platform, with the passenger going next to the conductor, facing the street.

Art. VII – Conversations

When two people, sitting at a distance; wish to say something aloud, they should be careful not to use more than fifteen or twenty words, and, in any case, without malicious allusions, mainly if there are ladies about.

Art. VIII – People who smell bad

People who smell bad can participate in trolleys indirectly: remaining on the sidewalk, and seeing them pass by from one side to the other. It would be better if they lived along the street where trolleys passes by, because then they could see them from their window.

Art. IX – Women passing

When a lady enters, the passenger at the head should stand up and allow passage, not just because it is uncomfortable for him to remain seated, squeezing his legs but because it shows a great rudeness.

JULY 4, 1883

Source (PT)

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