Friday, August 14, 2015

Three Numbered Paddles

Have you sat on the train near a phone abuser? If you're a regular TTIV reader or occasionally take the train you know it's an epidemic. If you're in the mood for peace and quiet as you wind down your day, it can be difficult if you are within earshot of some inconsiderate boob talking about his medical test results.

I can usually detect within 30 seconds whether a conversation will drag or end soon. This superpower of mine comes from spending a lot of time on the train and observing people. You get to know patterns. When I encounter phone abusers, I move seats if at all possible. 

But what about the peace-seekers who cannot easily read the signs? Do they have a right to know when these blowhards will finish their conversations? Of course they do.

Octavius and I spoke about this, and we came up with a solution. The answer is... three numbered paddles.

You're probably thinking, "Gee, TTIV, what do you mean by “three numbered paddles?” Let me explain. The idea is simple, although its deployment might be tricky.

If you plan to have a phone conversation around fellow commuters, YOU are responsible for letting people know how long you plan to go on. YOU must hold up a paddle indicating how many minutes you'll be on the call. So simple!

The paddles will have messages on them as follows:

Paddle 1
Front: "5 minutes"
Back: "10 minutes"
Paddle 2
Front: "15 minutes"
Back: "30 minutes"
Paddle 3
Front: "The entire ride"
Back: "Until a brain tumor forms on the side of my head"
What is your major malfunction?
The best part about this idea is that there is no need for confrontation. Peace-seekers can simply look at the offender and know whether to move, put up with it, or organize a soap-and-sock beating, as seen in the Academy Award-nominated classic, "Full Metal Jacket."

Of course, implementation is easier said than done. Blabbermouths are rarely considerate, so we can't expect them to thoughtfully commute with paddles to hold up. What are the options?

LIRR conductors could store a set of paddles in each car and give them out to passengers who have important calls to make. Practically speaking, this has no hope of working. Why? Because conductors do not perform any functions whatsoever without union approval.

This is no joke. The conductors' union has hindered progress for years. A friend with MTA ties told me that the technology to accept smartphone-based tickets has been available for years, but the union won't allow the MTA to switch over to the technology unless it's worked into the contract. And that takes negotiations, threats of strikes, concessions, and ultimately fare increases. So unfortunately we're stuck with conductors who operate as though it is 1974. 

The more likely solution will be grass roots. Vigilante commuters like me will have to carry the paddles and hand them out to offenders on an individual basis. I encourage you to procure and carry them as well. 

Perhaps the MTA will put the three paddle solution on their "Courtesy Counts" campaign. I will write a letter to the Customer Service department and suggest it. I'll share the results when they get back to me, several thousand years from now.

Happy and safe commuting, and may you encounter uncommon sense.
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