Notes From The Train

There are two kinds of people who use their cell phones on the train: those who deserve to have their lungs torn out by my jagged fingernails, and those who should have their genitalia removed with a rusty tweezer.

At some stops not all the doors open. This is on purpose. I think it’s a safety thing. Often when customers are inconvenienced these days, it is an offering to the Safety god. Before these stops when not all the doors will open, the conductor will announce that only the doors on, say, the third and second-to-last cars will open. Such an announcement would be helpful if it came as the train was going around a big bend, so that one could count to see which car one is on.

Otherwise, it’s not so helpful. Fortunately, there’s always one or two nerds who know exactly what car they are on, so the rest of us just follow them to the open doors. This, by the way, is a beauty of markets — they work pretty well even with limited information.

I’m not sure I’m happy with the fact that I recognize this.

News Flash From My Train: Marge from Burke likes to keep some band-aids handy in her oversized bag.

I learned this because Ted from Manassas had a mysterious hand wound that prompted Marge to offer her remedy. As Ted applied his bandage he marveled at the brilliance — and breathtaking convenience — of carrying a supply of bandages in one’s oversized bag that one crams against the leg of a fellow passenger who is just trying to write his novel so he can stop riding the godforsaken train. This perky conversation gave Sam from Burke an opening to remark on the fascinating title of the paperback Marge was clutching in the hand not overflowing with bandages, “The Earl Grey Killer.” Well this just led to a rollicking good time, as Ted and Marge and Sam bantered back and forth about which teas they like best, how good it tastes with just a pinch of honey in it, and lots of other insights that I missed as I tried for ten minutes to type a single blessed sentence.

The point is, if you are just going to talk about tea, why bother? How can the energy required to open your mouth possibly merit the psychological gain from learning that Sam likes just a swig of milk in his? Perhaps we are just starved for human contact. Not me. I get more than enough on the freaking train.


  1. Stacey

    look at you, Mister Observance. You need to drive your car to work. You must sit on the train in stony silence. I wonder what the others think of you….

  2. annie

    realy stacy, why do you give a freak what the other commuters think of him? and believe it or not, “stony silence” is preferable to most people.

  3. Dean Esmay

    I have never understood this passionate hatred people have for hearing others speak on cell phones. Never.

    What the heck is the difference between two people sitting on the train chatting with each other (having a conversation which is none of your business), and one person having a conversation on a cell phone (which is none of your business).

    People who get irate about these things strike me as people who need to grow up. No offense, Tony, since I’m a big fan of your work, but when I hear rants like ths, I want to take out my cell phone and talk just to annoy folks like you.

    Too bad I don’t have a cell phone. 🙂

  4. Tony

    I also despise people who talk, uninvited, in my presence. It is, you see, all about me, and my needs.

    Diane, you’ll be glad to know that next week I will begin carrying my portable CD player and earphones.

  5. Brian Jones

    Good googly moogly, Dean & I are the same person! No wonder I’ve been drawn into his comments section!

    Why, in the name of all that is holy, should I care even a little bit whether someone else is using a cell phone in my presence? Why should they care if the tables are turned?

    Next you’ll be complaining about children in restaurants. No, wait, you have kids, so that’s ok! 😉

    Brian, who will have a weekend away from the kids starting tonight, for the first time in about 9 years.

  6. Deoxy

    The only thing that really bugs me about cell phones in public are the ones where, to be heard, the user must speak VERY LOUDLY.

    Then, they are essentially apprpriating the public space as their own private space to do with as they please. Certainly, no one else can do much (especially when the cell phone user yells at everbody to be quiet so he can hear!).

    But for those who talk normally with them (and aren’t a menace by walking/driving while talking – yes, some people can do it, but SOME CAN’T
    and therefore shouldn’t), cell phones are great.

    Though admittedly, the guy with the “hands free” that you can’t see DOES look like he’s talking to himself…

  7. Tony

    I haven’t done a very good job of describing the culture on the train. Most people, if they talk, do so quietly (though if enough clusters in a car exist, the volume soon escalates to restaurant level). Others sleep, some read or write, some work on laptops, some listen to music. In that environment, the yapping on a cell phone is grating, in part because it tends to be louder than a conversation, and also because it has no cadence that one can adapt to and hence drown out — just random bursts of exclamation.

  8. Jessica

    I can understand the annoyance with the bursts of exclamation, and those who speak loudly on cell phones. I am annoyed with this myself, but it’s something I can live with without losing my temper.

    What gets me is CURSING in such a public area. Those who figure either that no one can hear them, that nobody cares, or they just decide that they don’t mind if they’re acting offensively constantly grate my nerves, and I can rarely maintain a pacifistic nature when someone next to me is talking about ‘washing his $%#&ing clothes’ or something similar that doesn’t require profanity. These people are horribly rude, in my opinion, and although women offering bandages and talking about tea may be annoying to some, there are worse things.

  9. fillyjonk

    I’m with Jessica. I’d much rather hear a discussion of tea preferences, or what people carry in their big honkin’ bags, or novels, or WHATEVER than having to deal with someone trying for the Cuss Trifecta of using the f-word for as many parts of speech as possible. Ick.

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