There are two types of public sratching: acceptable and unacceptable. What deems public scratching unacceptable is both the location and the duration of the scratch. I don't need to tell you ALL of the unacceptable locations for a scratch (we all know this intuitively) but there are some grey areas, if you will, that I feel need to be addressed.
I discovered one particularly grey area today while wandering around UVSC, trying to find the library--and tarnation! It was near-impossible to locate. I was standing in the Computer Science Building (which, incidentally, is designed in the image of a computer chip) and I saw a man scratching his back. This was no ordinary scratch, however. This guy was standing against a stair rail, knees bent, back at a 45 degree angle from his legs, and scratchin' it up black bear style. He was moving up and down, up and down, rubbing that big back against the railing. I stood there staring for what seemed like a full minute. Then, he started to move side-to-side, scratching his way down the stairs. At this point, I couldn't contain myself: I burst out laughing. The man thought nothing of it, straightened up, and walked away.
Now, I ask you, is this acceptable public scratching? I think not. What made it so disgusting and off-putting was not only the interminable duration, but also the manner in which he scratched. Using public property to relieve your itching ought to be considered taboo, and boy was this guy taking full advantage of that stair rail--the same rail that hundreds of unsuspecting twenty-somethings will use today.
I thought long and hard about the location of the offending scratch: the back. Most people would say this is a fine place to scratch. I feel, however, that it is too personal, and too large an area for appropriate public scratching. My new rule of thumb is that if your clothes cover it, you shouldn't scratch it. This limits scratching locations to the hands and arms, the neck and head, and (in summer) the legs. I am conflicted about head-scratching, considering that some take it too far, causing flakes to rain onto their shoulders, and sometimes onto those around them. But the occasional one-second-long scratch can be very satisfying and is totally okay to do in public.
I finally found the library, and, luckily, no one was scratching on the stairs over there. Maybe it has to do with the type of student Computer Science attracts? Perhaps the more well-read know how wrong it is to scratch like that in a public forum? Maybe this man and I were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.