Sunday, June 01, 2014

The Ironies Of The Quiet Car

I sat in the quiet car to Manhattan on Friday.  The quiet car is usually pleasant in the morning, given that the majority of riders are veteran commuters.  Calls and electronic noise are at a minimum.  People respect the RULES.

I've noticed that the quiet car has several ironies.  But before I explain what I mean, I need to clarify some things for the non-commuting reader.  The quiet car is always the west-most car.  Since trains go in two directions, the quiet car is the first car on west (NYC) bound trains, and the last car on east (Nassau and Suffolk County) bound trains.

As some of you know, I prefer crude drawings over produced graphics, and I've provided such a visual in the image below.  Note the "Q," for "quiet car," in the west most train on both NYC and Nassau/Suffolk bound trains.  
The quiet car is always the west most car.  

Now we're ready to get ironic.  Don't you think?

Irony #1: In the morning, the quiet car is the first car.  The engineer sits in the first car in a little compartment.  The engineer has official business, as the person in charge of the locomotive.  Central dispatch and conductors communicate with him, via radio.  If you’re sitting near the little compartment, your fellow passengers will be quiet, but his radio will be chatty and usually pretty darned loud.  You will spend your entire commute listening to “CONDUCTOR GO TO CHANNEL 4,” “CONDUCTOR ON 4,” “I hate commuters,” and "try not to crash into any other trains."

Irony #1 makes me think the car's name should be the “Commuters Should Be Quiet But Train Operators are Allowed to Talk Car.”

Irony #2: The engineer needs to let people in the area know that the train is passing through.  He blasts the horn so that drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, departed loved ones in the nearby cemetery, and folks three towns over can know that the train will soon cross a grade.  That horn is on top of the first train car (see the crude drawing above).  Given that the first car is not soundproofed, the horn noise makes its way into the passenger cabin.  It vibrates, too.

So if you take a morning snooze in the quiet car, it will likely be interrupted.  On Long Island, there is a grade crossing every 829 feet.  Your commute will go something like this:

* Sit down
* Read newspaper, nod off….. 
* Jolt up, wipe saliva from chin, nod off again
* Jolt up, check email, texts, nod off again
* Jolt up, give up, write blog post (that's what I do, anyway)

Ironies #1 and #2 make me think the car's name should be called the “Commuters Should be Quiet But Train Operators are Allowed to Talk and the Warning Horn Is Loud Car.”

Irony #3: The quiet car on the train home is the exact opposite of the morning.  There is no official business noise in the last car.  So it's quiet, right?  Maybe.  The evening rush typically has a greater mix of hard core commuters, occasionals, and once-in-a-whiles than the morning rush.  Fewer people realize that THERE ARE RULES !!! People talk, and the righteous shush the sinners.  The sinners get angry and yell at the righteous.

What's the moral?  You need to go in with reasonable expectations, as joining or starting an angry fracas rarely ends happily.  The quiet car is a grand idea but one can't expect miracles.

Ironies #1, #2, and #3 make me think the car's name should be the “Commuters Should be Quiet But Train Operators are Allowed to Talk and the Warning Horn Is Loud and Not Everyone Will Respect the RULES Car.”

Happy commuting, and may you encounter uncommon sense.

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