There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What to say when "please" doesn't work?

"I don't understand how some people have any eardrums left," said the man as he plopped down in the seat facing me on the Watt/I-80 train last night.

Music could be heard over the constant rumble of the moving light rail car, which is not a minor feat. But the man's assumption that a rider was using earphones was wrong. No, this was noise produced by the nuisance of new technology: Cell phones masquerading as MP3 players. From transistor radios to boom boxes and now to musical speaker phones -- the parade of annoying technology marches on.

The man had been seated across from a 20-something young woman playing rap music on her cell phone. He had gotten up and walked to the rear of the car only to realize that he hadn't escaped. Eventually, he got up and walked back to the woman and asked her to turn down the music.

"Please," I heard him repeat.

The music drowned out whatever the woman said in response. The man shook his head and gave up. He walked to the other end of the train and waited for his stop.

A Regional Transit contract security officer asked the lady to turn the music down as he walked from one end of the car to the other. She turned it down, but only until the officer walked away. Then she turned it back up, louder than ever. The officer didn't try to make her keep the volume down.

This wasn't just inconsiderate behavior. This was deliberate rudeness.

I have a teenage son, and he has an unlimited number of teenage accomplices. My house is often the victim of teenage slovenliness. As a result, I have a higher tolerance for the inconsiderate jerks I run into while riding regional transit.

But with Sacramento Regional Transit ridership in the first six months of the year down 7 percent on buses and 2 percent on trains, the system can't afford to be annoying people off transit and back into their cars.

What can you say when "please" isn't enough?


ByJane said...

When I read this, I flashed on that guy who shot up kids on the NY Subway. Is that next? Before that, maybe they should put uniformed guards on to do the reinforcing. Or conductors with balls.

John said...

Nah, I don't think guns are a good response to passive-aggressive rejection of societal norms by socially deprived (or perhaps depraved) people for whom pity would be the more appropriate sentiment. (Don't know what that means; it just sort of popped into my head.)

RT pays for contract security personnel on light rail. I have not ridden this year when I wasn't accompanied by an officer for at least some of the trip. Those people who feel "security" is an issue ought to be comforted.

When I think about this annoyance with the speaker phone, it occurs to be that it is a lot like the random encounter with a jerk on the freeway who cuts you off because he suddenly realizes this is his exit. Only it is less dangerous.

Jon Q. RT Driver said...

I have had several run in's with folks who use the mobile phone as a make-shift boom box.

Just last week, I kept hearing some noise that penetrated my cab window, and looked back. I saw a young man with a cell phone held close to his ear, playing music that was less than appropriate. At the Zinfandel Station, I stepped out of my cab and asked him to use headphones or turn it off.

He told me to eff myself and drive the train. I politely effed him off my train at Cordova Town Center. I suppose I was lucky in this interaction, because it does not always work out this easily.