If you can’t understand it, it’s not annoying
Loud cell phone conversations are one of the many things that annoy me about the LIRR. For reasons I cannot explain, some people feel compelled to talk in excessively loud voices when using their phones on the train. Perhaps it is because train cars tend to be on the noisy side. Of course that does not mean you have to speak loudly, unless the person on the other end is in a similarly noisy environment, but there may be various psychological aspects at play. People speak loudly if they have trouble hearing, that sort of thing. In any event, not all loud conversations are created equal. This came to me as I was riding on the 7:19 from Ronkonkoma to Penn. I’d been running a little late in the morning and couldn’t get the shuttle from Medford, so I drove to Ronkonkoma and got there just in time to get the 7:19. When I boarded the train just before departure, the car was packed, so packed I almost got off to wait for the 7:32. At the last minute I spotted an empty aisle seat, next to a chubby but not excessively wide woman of about 50. No sooner did she get underway than she took out her phone and began talking loudly. Very loudly. So loudly, in fact, that my trusty iPod was doing a barely mediocre job of covering the sound. Fortunately, the woman was talking in an unfamiliar foreign language. I say “fortunately” because my inability to understand what she was saying made things much less distracting. They were just sounds I could tune out easily, while still hearing them. I was un-distracted enough that I was able to concentrate on my new book, House of Cards, about the fall of Bear Stearns and the start of the current financial crisis, even though it is definitely not light reading. Speaking of reading, I was able to figure out what language the woman was bellowing, er, speaking in, when she took out some reading materials in Hebrew. We got to Penn on time, the woman having spent the entire trip on the phone, and because I got off the train near a stairway to the west side exit passageway, I decided to take the Eighth Avenue line to Broadway-Nassau instead of traipsing over to the Seventh Avenue side. I didn’t have to wait long for an A, and it was tolerably crowded, but all the stops it makes seem endless.
I used a more conventional route to Penn after work, taking a 3 from Fulton, and got the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma. Once again I sat in the head car, both because it would be closer to my car at Ronkonkoma and because I figured it would be mostly normal people instead of SCA’s. Indeed, the young man next to whom I sat was neatly but casually dressed, and unlike the woman in the morning was not annoying. What was annoying was the couple with three small children who sat in one of the pair of facing seats in the middle of the car. The rug rats had to be the noisiest children on the planet, spending much of the trip shrieking at the top on their lungs. Once again, my iPod was put to a very stern test. As you might imagine, the screaming-children family stayed on the train right until the last stop at Ronkonkoma. But of course.
Gym: day off tonight.