Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Coping With Sound Bombers

I’ve stated many times that headphones and music are the first line of trench defense. When opponents compromise your fortress, you’ll find yourself in battle. 

I know what you're going to ask. “Huh? What are you talking about?” I’m referring to vocal artillery fire. Commuting is war, and enemy cell phone abusers frequently detonate sound bombs. These mercenaries are armed to the teeth with discussion points about dinner plans and colonoscopy results, and they fire at will. Oftentimes, you have to take cover in a new trench.

We’ll now dispense with the military metaphors, as I never served in the armed forces. I’m sure TTIV readers who have will point out that I’m using them incorrectly.

My question today is, "what does it take to quiet a sound bomber?

When you're on a crowded train, it is not always easy to relocate when your airspace becomes polluted. You may feel compelled to say something, but who wants the aggravation? Is quiet worth a potentially heated exchange with a stranger? In my observations, people mostly take a passive approach. Loud sighing, half head turns, and sometimes more aggressive full eye contact are all typical. These tactics are met with varying results.

TTIV checked in with readers for opinions. Today, we're using Greek mythological figures to mask contributors' true identities.

Poseidon. "It doesn't matter how many looks I give, because they just keep going. I give up long before they're done with the conversations. I grit my teeth.

Poseidon, I recommend noise-canceling headphones. Your approach is no good for your blood pressure.

Persephone. "I don't commute, but I think you should say, "bless your heart! Don't you realize how loud you are?"

Persephone lives in the south. "Bless your heart" is a versatile and polite (or what we northerners call "passive-aggressive") way to tell someone off, south of the Mason-Dixie line.

Here are several useful examples, with translations for northerners:

"What a beautiful cubic zirconia you bought me. Bless your heart!" Translation: Thanks, you cheap bastard.

"I understand. You're so busy that you forgot to put the parking brake on and that's why my Buick is in the neighbor's living room. Bless your heart!"
Translation: You are an idiot and you're going to pay for all this damage.

OK, back to the topic.

Oceanus. "It takes 27 nasty looks to quiet an offender down."

I'll have to take Oceanus' word for it, because I don't have the mental stamina to give 27 nasty looks.

Athena. “The subtle approach does not work, they NEVER get the hint. You need to yell at them before they get it.”

Athena is right. In my experience, head turns and angry eye contact don’t get people far. It seems like cell phones have the power to shut off abusers' peripheral vision.

Phobos. Phobos doesn't mess around. She told TTIV that she just turns and gives a scary "STFU." If you're unfamiliar with the acronym, it stands for "shut the fracas up."

Right on, Phobos.

Do my comments make me seem like a crotchety old geezer? I just know what I like. I want my music bluesy and soulful, I want my scotch over clear ice, and I want to commute with Athena or Phobos going forward. I don’t care what trains they take.

Happy and safe commuting, and may you encounter uncommon sense.
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  1. Favorite one I witnessed... someone in the car was on the phone, effectively in a shouting match with his daughter . He asked some sort of ridiculous question to his daughter, and someone in the train car responded with their own answer, at an equally loud volume. We all laughed and he shut right up.

    1. Good story, Ben. It makes me wonder how people can be so unaware of their surroundings.