Shhhh… let’s just forget about my month-and-a-half absence and plunge straight into a brand shiny new rant-listicle-combo (a ranticle?).
I’m not a religious woman. I try, albeit in my fallible human way, to believe only things I have good evidence for, whilst being tolerant towards the other inhabitants of this deeply flawed little planet. However, there is one sacred place in which the tiniest misdemeanour can turn me into a furious rage-monster. (Anyone who’s seen me when I’m hungry may take issue with the idea that I don’t often become irrationally enraged, but that’s not the point.) Friends, let me introduce you to the Sanctity of the Quiet Carriage.
The Sacred Order of the Quiet Carriage is founded on a beautifully simple concept. It’s a space in which loners, library-shushers and the deeply hungover can come together with one mutual goal in mind: silence. Yes, I know the sign on the door only says to “keep unnecessary noise to a minimum”, but I think we all know that by “unnecessary noise” it means “literally any noise” and by “minimum” it means “absolute zero”.
The reason this matters is that once you impose a certain level of quiet, every little squeak, crackle or mutter rings out like a dropped chandelier in a cathedral; it’s simply impossible not to notice. In the normal carriages, you can be pretty sure of reading your book in a constant state of around 50% concentration. In contrast, the second a sound is uttered in the Quiet Carriage, you lurch from 100% concentration straight down to 0%.
Why not just accept the 50% and be done with it, you say? The thing is, us true believers can’t let go of the torturously unobtainable Quiet Carriage dream. We know we could have perfect peace if everyone cooperated, and yet there are always a few blasphemers who will noisily go about their business, safe in the knowledge that they’re the most important person on the train. Others are simply blissfully unaware of Quiet Carriage etiquette, unbelievable as that may seem.
Perhaps, if these people were made aware of the wrong they’ve done, everything would change. It’s got to be worth a try, hasn’t it? So for the uninitiated, here are a few things to avoid (all of which I’ve seen in real life, in case you were wondering if humanity really is that dreadful). Feel free to print and distribute them in all your favourite local trains.
NOTE: If and ONLY if the rest of the train is completely full, these rules can be waived. But only begrudgingly.
Welcome to the Quiet Carriage. Please, for the love of all that is good and true, DO NOT…
If you must, do it briefly and with an appropriately apologetic look on your face. As sins go, this one isn’t the most deadly – I have to confess I’ve been guilty of it myself. However, in the echo chamber of the Quiet Carriage, crisp-crunching is unkind to your neighbour’s delicate ears, so keep it to a minimum.
…Leave your phone on full volume
*bing bing bing*
[phone noises continue for some time]
[me: hulks out and repeatedly smashes the offending phone against plastic train table until it lapses into a quiet electronic burbling]
I should note that this hasn’t actually happened… yet.
…Have a full-blown conversation on your phone
Nothing is more arrogant than ignoring the despair of your fellow passengers in order to bellow into your smartphone about how much money you made yesterday (Accurate Real Statistic: this is what 93.7% of Quiet Carriage phone calls are about). There is no excuse for ringing people in the Quiet Carriage, unless your call is a quick check-in with your ailing grandmother who’s got dementia and is worried you’ve been abducted by aliens. And even if it is essential, leave the damn carriage* if it’s going to take more than a minute. There are loads of carriages. Why do you have to be on the phone in mine?
*Assuming, of course, that you have the capacity to do so.
…Have a catch-up with your friends
Why would you use the Quiet Carriage for a fun get-together? Did you accidentally book tickets in the wrong bit of the train, or are you just an envoy from Satan? If it’s the latter, you should immediately be driven from said carriage with pitchforks and so on. If it’s the former, this is a startling oversight on the part of the train company, who I maintain should only allow single seats to be booked in the Quiet Carriage. We get it, you have friends. I’m on my own, and I want to read my book. Go away.
…Become drunk and rowdy with your friends
There’s a place for people like you. It’s called the Rest Of The Train. This should require no other explanation.
…Bring your kids
It is a well known fact that children are noisy, easily bored, and quite inconsiderate of those around them. I’m assured by my parents that I myself was the worst possible specimen of a screaming baby, and I apologise retrospectively to all the people whose plane rides I ruined. So I do understand that being a parent is stressful and it’s ludicrous to expect you to keep your children quiet for hours on end. Just one little thing – there are lots of carriages on the train, and only one of them has the word “Quiet” in the title. I think you can see where I’m going with this.
…Talk to me
Here I am, sat by my lonesome in the QUIET CARRIAGE, with a book or a job application on the go, probably wearing headphones. What does that general picture convey? Well to some people, apparently it says “Hey guys, I’m Rowan, please chat to me about the weather/my book/political views I don’t share/your own life and how amazing or crap it is!”
Antisocial as it may sound, I think it’s reasonable to decline a conversation with a random (often drunk) stranger if you’re not in the mood. I’m all for people starting spontaneous chats – they can be brilliant fun – but you do have to read the signals, and in the Quiet Carriage, those are usually pretty clear. Here’s a clue: one of the signals is the “Quietzone” sign. That’s Quietzone. Quiet. QUIET.
Yep, people do this. With the volume up. On their phones, of course – I’m yet to see someone bring a full-on gaming setup onto the train with them. But Candy Crush is just as intrusive as Call of Duty (or whatever the kids are playing nowadays) when it’s being played behind you in an otherwise resoundingly silent space.
Seriously? You got on the train with your speakers, and thought: “Where shall I sit? Ah, yes, Quietzone, that sounds like the place for me and my TERRIBLE TERRIBLE MUSIC.” Go stand in the naughty corner and think about what you’ve done, while your carriage companions tut, widen their eyes at you in disbelief, and wish eternal torment upon your morally destitute soul.
That’s probably enough rage for one sitting, so off you toddle – go and read about something uplifting like current affairs. I’m not sure what the next post will be about, but if things continue this way, we may well have a Trump presidency before it arrives, giving us all plenty to think about. Good luck, and I’ll see you in the bunker.