A woman was thrown off an Amtrak train a while back for gabbling loudly on her cell phone for 16 hours straight while riding in the quiet car. I learned about it when my pal Marjorie posted the story of the woman’s removal from the train on her Face Book page, with the comment. “Sometimes Dreams Can Come True.”
Marjorie and I both work in a public library, where quiet, thankfully, is the norm. In a library, the sounds of everyday life are expected to be muffled. I appreciate a workplace where I can shush folks who talk too loudly and tell anyone who begins blathering on their cell to vamoose. Asking parents whose kids are hollering to escort the little terrors from the building works for me. There’s a reason the expression is “peace and quiet” and not “peace and cacophony.”
When I leave work, it can be hard to adjust. I’m old enough to remember a quieter world, where folks didn’t chat through movies or talk on the phone about private matters in public places. Waiting inside the train station last winter, I struggled to concentrate on my book as a man in a suit negotiated a contract at top volume, barking orders and resolving issues while pacing back and forth. Then another fellow pulled out his cell and began an urgent conversation with his girlfriend. As their competing monologs filled the air, I glanced over at the silver-haired man sitting nearby and we both fled the warm waiting room for the icy cold platform.
“If it’s a choice between cold and noise,” I said, as we shivered together, “I’ll take the cold.”
When the train arrived, we took refuge in the quiet car. All around us, people read, dozed, daydreamed, talked softly, or simply looked out the window. It’s a delightful place. I would pay extra to ride there. Luckily I don’t have to. (Yet.)
According to news reports, Lakeysha Beard wouldn’t shut up, despite being confronted by her fellow passengers. Instead, she got angry and argumentative. Conductors stopped the train, the police removed her and she was charged with disorderly conduct. I can just picture the wide smiles and happy sighs that resulted from Beard being escorted from the train. Nothing as raucous as a cheer. Not from the peace-and-quiet crowd. But perhaps there was a silent high five.
Of course, some folks take the concept of the quiet car too far. I was shushed once for reaching into a paper back to take out a sandwich — the bag, I was told, crinkled too loudly! Another time, I was chuckling softly to myself s I watched The Daily Show on my Ipod when the woman in front of me loomed over the seat.
“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself,” she hissed angrily, “but you’re driving me crazy. This is the QUIET CAR.”
Let’s face it — one person’s quiet laughter or fascinating conversation is another person’s intolerable noise. Can’t we all just try to get along? Sure. We can try. But talk on the phone for 16 hours in the quiet car and I’ll be thrilled when the cops remove you.
Hell, I’ll be okay if they shoot you. As long as they use a silencer.
(Roz Warren is the author of OUR BODIES, OUR SHELVES: A COLLECTION OF LIBRARY HUMOR.)