May 22, 2013
Written by Joe Pisani
Tuesday, 22 May 2012 10:43
I stumbled into the "quiet car" of the train the first day of the "Quiet CALMmute" program, and it was like stumbling into a crypt, one of those dark and creepy tombs, or a Trappist monastery without the jams and jellies.
I love quiet but I'm not accustomed to it.
There were no teenage girls chatting about their love problems or pimple problems. No guys grumbling about the Yankees or Mets. No salesmen gabbing on their cell phones, trying to close deals with customers in Hoboken. No wives arguing by phone with their husbands, and no husbands arguing by phone with their girlfriends. No Rihanna blasting from someone's headset. Nirvana.
I was the only one making noise because I kept clearing my throat — ugggh, urrrrg, ugggh. It's pollen season and my throat feels like it's coated with — ugggh, urrrg, owwwgooo — green dust.
The conductor seemed to be stalking us the way the nuns did in fifth grade, brandishing 16-inch rulers and waiting for someone to make a peep so they could crack a few knuckles.
Actually, the conductors were prepared to hand out "Shhhhhh" cards that explain the rules: No cell phone use, no sounds from laptops or electronic devices, talk only "in a subdued voice," and reduce the volume on headphones. And no throat clearing permitted. Urrrrghhhaaa.
By some twist of fate, the cars I normally ride in — the last one in the morning and the first one at night — have been designated "quiet cars." The other option is the toilet car, which I try to avoid.
A few weeks ago, I was in the quiet car on the Acela, and the conductor urged us to observe "a library-like atmosphere," and it was just like the library at Ohio State before spring break. There didn't seem to be enough enforcement to stop a guy talking to his stockbroker or the fellow next to me who was making annoying noises, eating barbecue potato chips and slurping Miller Lite.
Listening to people crinkle snack bags and chomp on Fritos is sheer torture, and the agony is compounded by the smell. I love the aroma of a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich but only when it's my own.
I never minded the chatter before, but now that they changed the rules, I want complete quiet. I fear, however, it's against our nature because our lives depend on earphones, iPhones, texting and mindless chatter.
On the evening Metro-North train, there were signs of anarchy. All the regular passengers weren't committed to the cause. A woman with a big mouth kept talking to a guy with an even bigger mouth, and I wanted to yell, "Shut the heck up, you nitwits!" But I didn't because I knew her, and he was larger than me.
Then, a teenager started playing a game on her phone that had chirping birds, and while I love to lie in bed at 5 a.m., listening to the birds chirp, this was just plain annoying.
So much for the quiet car. My only hope is the toilet car. Ugggh arrgh aggawaggie.
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