Saturday, December 18, 2010

Normblog on train travel

Sound coaching "Returning south yesterday after completing on the sale of our house in Manchester, I arrived at Piccadilly station just in time for the train about to depart for Euston, and so got on the first carriage I saw with an empty seat. It was Virgin Trains' Coach N - the 'noisy coach'. I assumed that the 'noisy' in this designation was permissive rather than mandatory, and settled down quietly to read, while all about me a terrible racket prevailed. One guy was calling across the length of the carriage to a friend of his at the other end; they were bewailing the poor fortunes of Liverpool FC. Opposite me a young person was listening to music that leaked out of her earphones. And in the seat next to mine a man was speaking into his mobile thus: 'Daphne, hi, it's Nick. Please set up a meeting between me, John, Tracy and Attila - for next Thursday. I want to scope out a proposal.' Despite my difficulties in concentrating, I read my book. But not for long. I soon discovered my mistake. Noisiness in Coach N isn't an option, it's an obligation. In no time half the people there were shouting at me to stop being so quiet. 'Who the bloody hell do you think you are? Make a noise, will you.' At first I demurred; but the conductor was soon called and he made it plain to me - loudly - what my duty was. What's more, he said I now owed the other customers an apology.

This I uttered, or rather muttered, but evidently too quietly. A woman in red shouted back at me, 'In Coach N a quiet apology is no apology.' So, raising my voice, I repeated, 'I'm very sorry'. 'Louder,' they all cried. 'SORRY!' I yelled now at the top of my voice. I was evicted from Coach N. My yelled apology, though loud and noisy enough at last, was held by the assembled shouters not to count, since though it met the noise-requirements of the coach, it wasn't any longer in the proper spirit of an apology, since an apology loses its persuasiveness (as genuine) once yelled. Readers, imagine my humiliation. Evicted.

I did the only thing I could in the circumstances and made my way to Coach Q, the 'quiet coach'. Here, to my horror, there was no less noise than in Coach N. One guy was berating another for snoring in the quiet coach and a woman was shouting into her iPhone, 'Hello Nick, yes it's Daphne. Attila can't get there on Thursday; he's making sausages. He asks if it's OK for Cecily to stand in for him - well, sit in.' I became more and more irritated. When Bearded Bob pulled out a guitar and started to give his rendition of 'Never On Sunday', I in my turn demanded an apology - for so much noise in the quiet coach (ha ha ha). No apology was forthcoming. My fellow travellers, if such they can be called, all insisted - decibels flying - that an apology from them was bound to be worthless because, if quiet, it would not be heard, and if noisy, it wouldn't be in the true spirit of an apology.

I reflected on the perils of train travel and from then on kept my own counsel, but noisily enough to avoid getting into further trouble".

Brill. Been there Norm as well and got tee shirt.  Mind you sometimes (when younger) I've been one of the noisy ones.

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