Service of Busybodies

June 13th, 2022

Categories: Busybody, Museums, Nosy, Rail Travel, Train, TV


Image by Prawny from Pixabay

An incident at the Metropolitan Museum of Art made me think of busybodies I have seen on TV such as Agatha Christie’s Miss Jane Marple, Norton and for that matter Ralph Kramden on the “Honeymooners,” Kramer on “Seinfeld” and Marie the mother/mother-in-law/neighbor on “Everybody Loves Raymond.” For those watching the Australian soap “A Place to Call Home,” there’s the well-meaning Doris Collins.

Some are endearing, others annoying. The one at the Met was the latter. As we entered an exhibition one of my friends remarked on how dark it was and I suggested that it might be to protect the pictures. A woman piped up loudly, “You’re wrong! It’s to create a certain ambiance. It has nothing to do with the paintings.” I’d not have remembered the incident had her words not been accompanied by an irritating tone, part edge/part know-it-all arrogance that I dislike. Even if she was correct, I didn’t appreciate her interference.

I asked a guard about this. He said he thought darkened spaces were to preserve the work. Some, he said, happy to chat, are exhibited for only short periods. He referenced the iconic “Great Wave” by Hokusai Katsushika. I looked into it at home and found in the museum’s online archive a 2014 reference to the summer exhibition of Katsushika’s work, the last paragraph of which was: “To prevent fading, we will rotate different impressions of ‘the Great Wave’ from the Met’s collection throughout the summer.” The works are on paper.

And then there are the nosy parkers who beat their breasts over something they see and do nothing. An acquaintance overheard a conversation in a store in which two women were carrying on with the shopkeeper about youngsters about 3 and 4 left alone in a car down the road–windows open, temperature 75. They assumed that the adult[s] were inside a store buying food. But all they did was blabber and point fingers. So what good?

I’ve previously reported on the nosy passenger who told a Metro North conductor that I was cheating the RR out of a fare. In fact the conductor on the first of two trains to get to my destination had mistakenly clicked two squares, including the one for the second part of the ride. He’d circled, dated and initialed his error on my 10 trip ticket. The conductor said to the busybody, “I believe her,” and moved on. The busybody glared at me. His companion shrank in his seat.

Have you come across busybodies? Are any your favorites in literature or film?

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2 Responses to “Service of Busybodies”

  1. lucrezia Said:

    Miss Marple is no busybody — she’s an amateur detective, and a good one too! Real life nosy parkers can be squelched by a glacial stare, or a sharp retort should one be fortunate enough to come up with one in time. The one at the museum qualifies as a certified pain.

    An ugly example was a young man who gleefully wrote down license plates of motorists making the slightest infraction to ignoring STOP signs and reporting them to the DMV. He must be in his 70s by now. I wonder if he’s tired of this activity or still enjoying playing policeman.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    I wondered if someone would refute my choosing Miss Marple as a busybody. I’m glad you did.

    What a perfect example is that nudge taking notes at the stop sign. Nasty.

    I just thought of one: I lived on an Air Force base in Turkey. We had one car so I was often running errands on a bicycle. At some gathering a neighbor asked me how our party was. Why did she think we had a party? Because she saw me–out of her kitchen window–on the bike with two liquor boxes in the basket. The boxes were empty and to ship Xmas gifts back home. How could anyone drive a bike with such a heavy weight? As a New Yorker used to the relative anonymity of apartment living, it gave me pause.

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