Damn the Man, Save the Quiet Car

If you follow my Twitter, you may have caught one my quiet car mini-rants that pop up from time to time. For those of you not familiar with Metra’s Quiet Cars or from the Chicago area in general, quiet cars are pretty self explanatory.  You be quiet. Though there is often the mention of it not being a silent car in the announcements, the normal one is that there are two quiet cars on the train and if you can’t be quiet, please move.


These cars, second from front and back of the train, were started in June 2011 and I remember when the policy first went into effect.  I didn’t sit in them too often since I sat with a group of women with whom I’d discuss food, food trucks, and TV.  While it was a nice way to wake up and mellow out depending on the ride, I started sitting in the quiet car to really veg out.  By vegging out I almost mean cat napping in the morning. Going to the end of the line in the morning gets rid of any worries of missing a stop. I just needed to be up so I wasn’t the semi-snoring person people passing by needed to tap to wake up. (I’ve tapped on numerous train seats over the years.)

So my new commute routine became doing my best to get a seat in the quiet car. There were people that would deliberately sit in there as well. Maybe, like me, they needed to veg out. Maybe they were ex-librarians who were having happy flashbacks. Then there were the people who sat IN the quiet car and patrolled THE quiet car from their seat.

One man generally sat a few rows ahead of me. One thing I learned about public transportation is many people get in the habit of sitting in the same space. I prefer to sit on the same side especially on the way home so I know exactly what landmarks to watch for in case the speaker in my car is messed up. So this man I ended up nicknaming “Mr. Bobblehead.”  Mr. Bobblehead was on silent patrol.  He never said anything but his head would pop up constantly, face swinging towards whatever noise/talking he heard, and scowl.  He had a pretty good scowl. If the scowl actually worked, however, I couldn’t tell. I just found it amusing that every little noise bothered him that much.

While I might tweet about annoying talkers, I don’t often say anything to them. I’ve had it where I’ve helped people out like the two guys who clearly hadn’t seen each other in ages. They did the loud “HEY!,” sat together and cracked open tall boys (you can drink on Metra most days) so they clearly were just looking for two seats together. Since the train wasn’t leaving in a while, I nicely asked if they realized they were on the quiet car.  They had no idea, thanked me, laughed that they needed to move because they weren’t going to be quiet and off they went. I helped them be able to carry one their catch up conversation and I didn’t have to listen to it. It was a win win situation.

Then there is that mid range where the people either don’t know or mildly don’t care and the others in the car are the same way. It might be a fast phone call, conversation, or an accidental too high setting on headphones volume. If someone says something then the person basically stops.  If there is any attitude from either party, it is mild.

The far end of the scale are those who just don’t care or are totally oblivious.  This is when I turn into Glarey McScowlerson. The totally oblivious might see the “WTF SHUT UP!” face but usually not because they are totally oblivious.  Others, like the woman who was asking about the extremely popular local breakfast/brunch place that is somewhat new in the area, got repeated looks.  While the pancakes there are amazing, they don’t need a 15 minute conversation. After repeated looks from me and others, luckily she hung up. 

The part that really bother me is when people are inconsiderate and/or just plain rude. One morning I was in the quiet car with one from the worst end of that scale: the rude people who just don’t care. I thought I had lucked out when I scored a seat near the window  so I could get some sun. Anything to help my head when it is in stuffy headcold/allergy ridden mode is a plus in the morning.  What I ended up was the woman on the cellphone conducting business two rows behind me.

I didn’t care about the team, what they were doing now, what they are hoping to do in the future, and whether or not Tuesday would be a good day for an in person meeting. I cared that I could hear her OVER my headphones. Please keep in mind that I do my best to be conscious of the volume of my headphones for both the sake of others and my poor ears.  They’ve gotten enough abuse throughout the years from concerts especially taking photos at local shows. (Yes, kids! Be cool and wear earplugs! The 30+ year old version of you will appreciate it!) So my considerate volume headphones were doing their best to pump out the Sister Machine Gun station on my Pandora account and block out the squawking woman.

Then I gave up and snapped,verbally that is, and I let out an “EXCUSE ME, THIS IS THE QUIET CAR” at an unknown volume (due to the Nine Inch Nails song that was then playing.) If it had only been a few minutes, ok. If it was clear that she was wrapping up the conversation, meh… ok. This was not the case. More and more all I could picture in my head was a train, and much more G rated, version of Corey (Liv Tyler) in Empire Records screaming about bringing Rex his lunch.

I could hear her tell whatever team member on the phone something along the lines of oh and being in the quiet car as I noticed a few people around me silently laugh and nod in agreement. I shared a smile with the woman with whom I had shared an eye roll earlier. I thought it was all over.


TWENTY minutes later she finally hung up. Please keep in mind that twenty minutes is a significant chunk of time for my train ride. Seriously, lady? Obviously even though she sat right below the 8.5′ x 11” bright blue quiet car SIGN, she is entitled to ignore it.

Luckily I’ve not seen her since. Part of me would want to ask how her team was doing.


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