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December 24, 2008

Travel Now, Talk Later

I love my cell phone. But I’m not crazy about other peoples’ cellphones, especially when they use them in a selfish or illegal manner.

You do know it’s against the law to talk on a cellphone while driving in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, right? Yes, cellphone addicts are allowed to drive and talk if they use a “hands-free” device, but even this begs the question of where their attention should be, i.e. on the road.

I honestly wonder what soccer moms with an SUV full of kids are thinking when they drive down busy streets juggling a latte in one hand and a cellphone in the other. Don’t they love their kids?

Local police have told me writing tickets for this offense is like shooting fish in a barrel. The first offense is usually just a warning, but some people never learn and have piled up three or four tickets.

Once, when stuck in crawling traffic on I-95, I actually saw a guy reading a book. I’ve seen other drivers shaving or putting on make-up. Give me a break!

In the words of the NPR “Car Talk” guys’ bumper sticker: “Drive Now, Talk Later”. But I’d carry that message to other travel environments as well, especially on the train.

When people leave the personal cocoon of their private car and move into mass transit they cannot take their selfish behaviors with them. In my car I can turn up the radio and enjoy a cigar, but on the train I have to share my ride with others.

For several years now the CT Rail Commuter Council has been trying to persuade Metro-North to establish “Quiet Cars” on commuter trains… cellphone- free environments where riders seeking peace don’t need to hear some self-centered hedge-fund dealer yelling at his trading desk in a voice that carries through the entire car.

Amtrak pioneered the “Quiet Car”® concept to rider acclaim, but Metro-North refuses even to experiment with the idea, instead pushing its “please be considerate of other riders” public service campaign, to only modest success.

If we used to have smoking and non-smoking cars, why can’t we have “Quiet Cars” as well?

What I enjoy most is watching cellphone users with the new Bluetooth wireless ear clips, chattering away to nobody in particular… “It’s me.” Who cares? “I’m on the train”. Yeah, I can tell. “Just thought I’d check in.” I wish I could check out. “What’s happening?” “My blood pressure is rising!”

But wait, fellow travelers… it could possibly get worse. Recently the FAA was considering allowing cellphone use in-flight. Could you imagine a 5 hour trans-con, crammed into a center seat, between two people determined to talk the entire way… and who’ve brought extra back-up batteries just to be sure? Fortunately, saner minds prevailed and that idea was shot down.

On a recent flight I had to ask the Gen-X’er sitting next to me three times to turn off her cell phone and stop texting her “buds” as we revved up for take-off. Finally, a call to the stewardess separated the gal from her toys until we landed. But if looks could kill…

OK…I’ll admit that I do use my cellphone on the train, but I always make the call short, and cup my hand around the mouthpiece… something like “I’ll be home by 7, but you guys go ahead and eat.” If a longer call is necessary I get out of my seat and use the vestibule area so as not to intrude on others’ peace. And to make sure that incoming calls don’t bother anyone, I leave my phone on vibrate.

Remember: A ticket on the train buys you transportation, not the right to annoy your fellow passengers with a recitation of your woes. And when you’re driving, will you please hang up?


Anonymous said...

Let's make sure everyone can get a seat before having quiet cars.

I have noticed that the majority of a train cars fill up to the point of having to stand during the last 5 minutes before departure. As of late the people getting on during the last minute are Tourists some of them that really can not stand. (Seniors and Families) Can't Metro North publish some guidesline. "Get to your train early so you won't be standing". Alot of these people get off in New Haven. They are not familiar or know people that take the train on a regular basis to know the conditions. I have the 10 minute rule If I am not at my train within 10 minutes I just take the next one. I get home 15 minutes later, but I am relaxed.

3. As for cell yes it is rude. There was a young women on the train and was speaking loudly on the phone and every word was "Like", "YA KNOW" until another woman came up to her and said be quiet, you are saying nothing and you sound stupid. I think passengers need to speak out more

Mark said...


Thanks for your online article about cell phones and how people using them can annoy people. I agree.

But, business travelers and others want to make calls during flight, and airlines and wireless companies want to make revenue from this service, but most people onboard don’t want to be bothered by people yapping while they fly. So, why not have the airlines pass a rule that says you can use your cell phone during fight, but only if you use a Conversation Privatizer like device? See This makes a Win-Win-Win situation for ALL!