Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Unquiet Car of Life

I know it has been a week since I blobbed last, and perhaps I need to explain my self. Not that hundreds of people are sitting on the edges of their Blackberrys waiting to see what the hell I may choose to write. But one interesting thing that happens if you aren't completely used to writing every day, is that it does take a certain commitment just to sit down and start writing. We have made it, perhaps, easier in the age of keyboards rather than a large Diary, or even a yellow pad and pencil. So what do we do with all these tools? Well, sometimes you just wish you could transport yourself to the Quiet Car of life.

Last Wednesday I had to return to DC from New York, and I walked from the Contact office on 38th and 9th, to Penn Station, a few blocks away. Frankly, nothing is more in the style of Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart than the act of walking out of the office at 11:15, walking 5 blocks along 8th avenue, into the Station at 11:25, whip out your Visa card, slide it thru the ticket machine at 11:28, and still have 4 minutes to grab a sandwich (a supposed Panini) and walk without hurrying to the train on track 13East with two minutes to spare. Try doing that on an airplane. You need that extra hour or hour and a half just to get to the airport, thru the ticket line, thru security and past all the stares from the other uptight fliers. The walk-on aspect of the train retains that singular innocence from the 40s and 50s when the threats to man and country were still in Asia and Europe, and not in all of our gigantesque train stations. So, ok, you get ON the train, and then, the 50s innocence dies in a matter of minutes.

You can't choose your parents, but in theory you can choose where you sit on the train. I thought I was safe: An empty row in the next to front coach car, surrounded by the usual assortment of business folks, students, weirdos and artistes. Over the next three hours, as I tried reading (both a book and e-reading courtesty of my Verizon wireless card) I was pummelled with voice Aggression from the row behind. I guess if I were smart, I'd think of it as a mini business school course: Maria S, who is planning on "building out" a new voice/internet company called "something"Voice, who was meeting on Thursday with some VC folks so she couldn't make the meeting till Friday; but then Friday she had to make a clear decision about whether or not the financing would work. Oh my God! Does it ever stop? Do people ever shut up? She never got off that damn cell fone. And worse, she ran into a guy who was apparently an old famly friend, and who, everytime she talked in her booming loud voice about the new company, ended with "guess who is sitting next to me?" She'd then put HIM on the phone, and wait for the "can you guess who this is?" as if it were really a mystery only MONK could solve. These are people who are, I suspect, tedious under normal circumstances, and when sitting together on a train. feel absolutely compelled to share their tedium with not only all of us on the train, but everyone within cell distance. The gift of communication seems to have morphed from being something we use as a tool of ideas and thought, to a self agrandising instrument of ego jolts: the louder you can talk on your fone, the more people will think you're cool

For years, Iris and I wanted to carry a small notice taped to the inside of our jackets: It would read " We dont Think Your Conversation is NEARLY as Interesting as YOU Do." It was to be flashed en passant to verbal violators, the non-Secret Sharers of the new technology. Not that people with those yappy tendencies would even understand the point. But somehow as we push ahead, using technology like a battering ram at the same time we use it as a shield, there ought to be a law. Well, I hate laws for those sort of things, at least the laws that government makes. But a law which comes from being smart; being aware, being in touch with who else is out there. That would be my kind of law. Is the Congress of Good Behaviour still in session? We're just sayin.



Anonymous said...

Sometimes I take the bus from bethlehem to nyc and back. The first return trip started with the following (paraphrased) announcement from the bus driver:
So get your stuff put away, turn down those cell phones; if you must, talk quietly for a few minutes. It's the end of the day. People are tired. We're going HOME." It was wonderful.

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