Nothing Worse than Ear-Phone Racket

There’s nothing worse than ear-phone racket.

I think that’s what she said, although it sort of sounded like:

There’s nothing worse than ear-phone rattle.

Either way, I think today I met the only other person on my five months of NJ Transit train commuting to Manhattan who seems to also care about the (ahem!) “ambient noise”.

It’s a beautiful Spring day. Easter Sunday just passed. On my ride back from Long Island over the weekend I was pleased to hear a simple courtesy announcement from the conductor of an LIRR train. Something along the lines of being courteous about cell phone and headphone use. I have no idea if it actually helped, but it made me feel better knowing that the LIRR was promoting basic courtesy on its trains. If you search their website, you’ll even find a PDF of a fairly draconian flyer – basically saying that you should consider seriously whether that phone call is important before picking it up and yammering away in front of all your neighbors.

It’s a quiet Spring day, the sun is out, I saw two male cardinals fighting on my tree-lined street. The local traffic police was out on Main Street to enforce the new New Jersey law (just in effect this month) which requires drivers to STOP, not just YIELD, when pedestrians are present in the crosswalk. Aside from the fighting cardinals, courtesy seemed abundant today.

But it can be a bit different on a train. It’s a very urban commute, and people feel busier than they actually are. This, along with boredom and occasional discouragement at the occasional train delays, seems to lead a few passengers each day to be somewhat discourteous.

It’s a quiet Spring day, mostly. But there’s a set of headphones somewhere behind me that’s pounding away with some boomy clubby music. And there are cell phones ringing every few minutes. A muttered phone conversation can be heard most of the time, somewhere, and occasionally there is one much louder:

I’m just checking in..

It goes something like that. Most cell phone conversations (triggered by boredom, as I said) tend to be about things like “checking in” or “can you hear me now”.

Someone off in the distance (i.e., about five seats back) has a retro ringtone on their cell phone. I can’t hear them muttering their checking-in conversation now, but I heard loud rings like the ones I grew up with on the rotary phones.

NJ Transit has a policy of courtesy – it’s been in effect for at least several years. But today, it is neither promoted or enforced (encouraged?). It’s just something you know about if you go searching deep into Google’s archives.

It’s a little different on the LIRR. But again, I don’t know if it makes any difference.

So when the woman, who was being somewhat passive aggressive, and seemed to think I might be a friendly ear, said something about the “ear-phone racket”, all I could think to do was to mutter back about how “cell phones are worse”.

And as I end this post, my quietly beautiful Spring day is decorated by another loud boomy clubby music ring tone from just behind, and a guy a few rows up who is arranging details of a conference or something.

Oh well.