Picture by mrpbps
Some years ago, I was holidaying with a friend in Scandinavia, and caught the train between Malmo in Sweden and Copenhagen in Denmark. We were looking forward to discussing the view from the Öresund Bridge, but almost as soon as we departed and began chatting a rather hassled looking Danish girl informed us that we were in a quiet carriage, something we'd failed to notice before boarding. We were shamed into staying silent, though a lot of ridiculous eyebrow pantomime and improvised sign language did ensue.
While I'd have enjoyed the chance to chat, I was determined to respect the principle of the "quiet carriage": not chatting excessively, using a mobile or listening to an iPod so loudly that a vaguely distinctive bass line can be heard from every seat. Not all my fellow travellers are so well mannered.
I've often been in a quiet carriage and endured someone nattering endlessly into their mobile. I'm rarely aggressive enough to tell them to STFU, but fortunately there's usually someone else who values their quiet time who'll make the point. The miscreant generally falls silent on being told, though there is always that small percentage of people who view the usage of a phone as some sort of inalienable right and decide to pick a fight. If nothing else, it helps pass the time.
Sometimes, the disruption comes from the train company itself. On a journey from Brisbane Airport to the city last month, we were told in some detail that a quiet carriage was in operation by the on-board announcer after every single stop. That tended to undermine the benefit that the approach offered — clearly visible signage on the relevant carriage would seem like a much better bet.
While the rules about mobile phones and iPods are often spelt out, there's still plenty of grey areas to uncover. Is it acceptable to use a laptop PC in a quiet carriage? Does that depend on whether you type like a maniac or just gently browsing? And is it fair enough to eat a packet of chips, or should you stick with less noisy food?
Years of writing in noisy locations as a journalist mean that I don't need absolute silence to get things done, and these days if there's a choice offered I'll often shun the quiet carriage when travelling alone to avoid getting criticised for laptop noise. In return, I just wish that people in any given carriage would learn how to switch off the sound effects when texting from their phones. The silence benefit of texting rather than speaking gets entirely cancelled out if you spend the journey softly beeping.
How do you deal with quiet carriage miscreants? Share your strategies in the comments.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman has been told that his voice can carry long distances. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.