Noisy eaters and public transport are not a match made in heaven - but are we a nation of food noise phobics?
Yesterday I had to give up my seat on a crowded London bus. Not because there was somebody elderly, pregnant or less able to stand - but because the girl behind me was eating her egg sandwich in such an overly enthusiastic manner. I could stand the rising tension no longer and had to abandon my seat and shuffle down the bus to the undesirable spot behind the closing doors.
So what is it about other people's food noises that raises such strong reactions in people? After several years of living in London, I am pretty much immune to the sounds of iPods, mobile phone chats and over-excited school children - but when it comes to a noisy eater on the tube, every sense in my body seems to switch to hyper-sensitive. And I am pretty sure I'm not alone.
I have a childhood friend who has to leave the room every time her mum has a cup of tea - because she can't stand the slurping noises. And know more than one family who only eat together with some form of background noise, whether it's music or the TV.
I love eating, and I love eating with people, which is why I find my annoyance at noisy eaters so difficult to understand - even if it is confined to strangers on public transport. I just can't give a logical explanation for the sense of doom that floods my stomach when I hear the crinkling sound of a bag of crisps being opened next to me on my way home from work.
Do you have a food noise phobia? Or do you know someone who does?I wonder if it might be some sort of belated hangover from the Victorians. After all I'm sure a trip to China would teach me a more relaxed approach to eating noises, where loud slurps are not seen as impolite but rather as a compliment to the cook. Maybe there is a lesson to be learned.