On Noise and Amtrak’s Quiet Car

I am a fan of Amtrak’s quiet car, yet I harbor love-hate emotions toward the sub-culture of those who journey in this vessel of silence.

The rules of the Quiet Car forbid loud talking, whispers only. Cellphones must be off; music and movies require headphones, of course. Signs that hang from the ceiling feature a pursed-lips shushing image. A conductor, via loudspeaker, explains the regulations.

Inevitably there are rule-breakers.

My hate surfaces when someone’s earphones are leaking tinny drumming sounds. I become conflicted by my options:

  • I can ask listener to reduce the volume, with the risk that he doesn’t turn it down enough at which I will again have to consider my options.
  • I can remain in the comfort of my seat and seethe.
  • I can hunt down the conductor and asking him/her to request that the violator of silence respect the rules of the Quiet Car.

But then love takes over, because a professorial type in a nearby row rises to inform another passenger that his typing is too loud. Old ladies and others chime in with agreement, ganging up on the typer.

I recently read about an incident that occurred in the Quiet Car when Noise Nazis asked a fellow passenger to breathe more quietly. I have witnessed this kind of oppression and the more irritated my fellow silence-seekers get, the more outlandish their demands, the more entertained I become: Quiet Car as theater, passengers as performers.

In the absence of passengers harassing other passenges to divert me, I myself can get aggravated by, say, someone periodically kicking my seat. At first it doesn’t happen at frequent enough intervals to warrant my turning around and asking the person to stop. Then I reach my limit, but so much time has elapsed and quite a few kicks have occurred, so it seems too late to ask for a moratorium on the kicking, which was precisely what happened when I went to see Elizabeth Taylor in Reflections in a Golden Eye in 1967, and which ruined the entire movie for me.

This seems an appropriate time of year to rant about noise, given that we have gone from the noisiest of seasons—that batball beach game—to the noisiest of seasons—the leaf blowers that bellow daily outside my window. (With the holiday nigh upon us, there is also a “Quiet” Car in my near future.)

Sometimes on the beach or by my window, I wait out the sounds while performing without success the breathing trick they teach for childbirth pain that doesn’t work at all for childbirth pain.

But the cognitive therapy trick of reframing the unquiet episodes in the Quiet Car as amusement does wonders.

Please rant in the comments about noise that gets on your nerves and what you do about it.

Coming really soon, my book: Confessions of a Worrywart: Husbands, Lovers, Mothers, and Others 

See also:

*Crisp, Golden Potato Pancake & Latke Recipe & Hanukkah In France

*Caring For Her Dying Husband At Home And Then Planning Her Own Death

*Gingerbread Houses . . . Fun, Decorative & Can Be More Than A House

*Easy Pancake Recipe: Homemade, Healthy Pancake Recipe

*Best Home Remedies for Colds




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