Chomp, chomp, chomp. It got on my nerves right quick, not so much because it's a less than charming habit, nor the fact that his finger was jammed first knuckle deep into his jaw, but mainly because this was a public forum. For God's sake man, we're all here taking a professional class. This presumes that we're all professionals to begin with, clearly some less so than others.
I understand the need to self-soothe. I know that some people are easily bored, nervous, distracted. I also appreciate that he didn't engage any more overt behaviors, although he did the leg-jiggle (left your motor running there son?) and knuckle crack (mom always said it would damage the cartilage, science though proved her wrong), he wasn't playing pocket-pool, or picking scabs and eating them either (I still have PTSD from the joy of being exposed to both).
Circumstances matter. I'm more than willing to forgive this kind of behavior when stress is involved. Waiting for a plane, for instance, or even getting through airport security, are good examples. Being tired. Long drives, late nights, horror movies, ok sure, I get it. Life is hard, sometimes you need your blankie, I do too sometimes. I don't pretend to be even within a stone's throw of perfect. But a certain level of decorum is necessary depending on the circumstances and to me, attending a pricey lecture at a prestigious university is a prime example.
Ok, now he's twiddling his fingernail-sized soul patch. Twist, twist, back and forth. It's hard not to cringe when it looks like someone yanking pubic hair. I guess his repertoire is more diverse than I'd realized. Gosh I can't wait to see what's next. It's like sitting next to an endless car crash, you can't pull your eyes away.
And that brings me to the point. I typically can assert my self-control sufficiently to yank my gaze away. But I'm vulnerable to sound and the random GRUNCH from the nail gnashing hooks my attention like a fish on a lure. I have to look, which raises my ire because I don't want to look, it's your damned habit, I don't need to participate, even vicariously.
The experience is akin to Chinese water torture, or so I imagine. Trapped, unable or unwilling to leave, and subjected to an erratic, bone jarring sound, it's nearly impossible for anyone to maintain their concentration (not even mentioning sanity.) I am not pleasantly disposed towards my peer, but if the opportunity comes to recommend him for a profession in hands-on, toxic chemical cleanup? I'd be all over that, like yesterday.