Monday, March 8, 2010

Overheard On The Train

My friend, Amy Alkon, writes brilliantly and more eloquently than me about this problem in her book,  I See Rude People. But another voice spreading the word about loud mouthed people on their cellphones in public places can't hurt and might help her one-woman crusade against rude behavior pick up some steam.

Saturday night, on the New Jersey Transit North Coast line heading out of New York  Penn Station, a very pretty young lady got on the train and sat across the aisle from me while shouting at her boyfriend on her Nextel radio. Which means were all treated to both sides of a profanity laden lover's quarrel, which included his references to her as a "bitch" and hers to him as an "asshole."

After about 10 minutes of this heated debate, he stopped answering her.

"Hello? Are you there? Can you hear me?"

Yes, we all can hear you young lady! All of us on the train!

Unable to get a response from her boyfriend, she switched the device to the cellphone mode and proceeded to give his voice mail not one, not two but (count 'em) three pieces of her mind. It all mercifully ended when the conductor announced Elizabeth Broad Street Station as the next - and thankfully - her stop.

The excitement of that call was forgotten. Until this morning. While on the same line heading back to New York City, I sat in front of another attractive young lady, who yakked for about 20 minutes on her cellphone about a person she knew who recently died. "He looked so good the day before he died," she announced to her fellow passengers. We also learned about her brother's repeated indiscretions and  grooming faux pas and her troubles on the job.

As soon as that conversation had ended, she rang up another friend to complain about the person she had just gotten off the phone with. "I couldn't get off the phone because he wouldn't stop talking" she declared, though from what I heard, she would have been far more accurate saying "I didn't let him get a word in edgewise."

Then we learned that she was meeting this co-worker she was talking with at New York Penn Station because they were coming in on different trains to attend a work-related conference. We also learned that the only thing she cared about was when they were serving the booze at the event. Oh yes, we also found out that she had to pee. Very very badly. So she'd have to take care of that little issue after they met up at the train station before heading to the conference.

When Amy overhears these kinds of conversations, she usually takes notes and then uses the information she writes down to contact someone involved in the call to let them know that they'd broadcasted personal or confidential business information to all within auditory range (you'd be surprised, Amy writes, about how many people spout off their phone numbers in public while on a cellphone). She also politely but firmly informs them  that  they were disrupting everyone else's space and peace of mind

I didn't go that far with these calls. But I have to agree with Amy. These instances of total disregard for others seem to be more prevalent lately. Amy's waging a one-woman war against the transgressors. I think I've pretty much reached my breaking point and I'm ready to join her in battle!


Hinda said...

I see this everywhere I go - In California it is illegal to be driving and talking on the cell phone unless you have a hands-free device. Well even the CHP (Highway Patrol) have been found guilty of not following the letter of the law.

Today's teenagers cannot speak to each other without texting first. I know what I am talking about as I have a 16 year old that has caused our cellphone bill to come not in an envelope but in a box!

Allen TX said...

I see this kind of conversation in my shop when customers com to shop they stay on the phone rudely and I am standing and waiting to serve them and some time it take 15 to 20 minutes to listen to them privet conversation and be ignored and the worse one are the one with ear piece that I can’t see and when they come to shop and they are talking laud sometime I think they said hello to me be for is ay hello to them and I start to say hello how are you they are holding them finger front of the nose and sign me sheeeeee and point at them ear piece and I have to be agree with you gary on this

Anonymous said...

i have a 14 year p;dsom and he has a cell phone all he does is text and the only people he calls on his ceel is me his mom and his 2 older brothers i have a cell also only a few people have my cell number i really dont use my cell i have it incase of emergency i dont use a cell in public i turn it off only time i have my cell on is for my kids to contact me but alot of people are very rude by useing a cell no matter where they are but guess we all have to live with it

Anonymous said...

There are many things I consider to be rude in public. This nonsense of sharing personal issues with the rest of us is only one of them. Aside from the fact that we don't want to know if Tom is cheating on Sally, there is the safety issue.

What if there's a fire on the train? Will the person be focused enough to handle the situation well? What about be alert for pick pockets or maybe spotting another person in trouble?

Public transit, as well as private vehicle use, is no time to multitask.

But I have other pet peeves. One of mine is this notion that pants are to be worn with the waistline situated between the hips and the knees.

Aside from the fact that this was a "jailhouse style" (with a meaning I don't want to repeat here), it's just plain offensive.

If I want to see your jockey shorts, boxers, briefs or underoos, I'll peek in your pants. Otherwise, I would appreciate it if you pulled up your pants and walked like a man.

And may I also ask: why don't you wait for the beautician to finish before you go shopping? There was a time when a woman wouldn't be caught dead in rollers in public. But now we have them out there in rollers, clips, pins, and doo-rags.

WWSW (What Would Stacy Wear) should apply to ladies in public today as much as it did in days gone by.

But I suppose the overuse of cells and similar devices in public places has got to be the list topper for most of us.

So the next time you're on the street, or the bus, or a public place of any kind, and the phone rings, perhaps pick it up long enough to say "I'll get back to you asap" and then find a more secluded place from which to make your call.

The local bathroom stall would work in a pinch.

LD McLellan