As long as we’re on the subject of Thanksgiving, and we’ve already given thanks for our great friends and family and our health, and all this great food, blah, blah, blah, I’d like to give thanks to whoever came up with the idea of a Quiet Car on my Metro North commuter train. The 8:04 out of Goldens Bridge is the train of my dreams, because I spend the entire ride asleep. I take a little nap on the way to work, I snooze a little on the way back, and I subtract if from the night and stay up each night watching “Forensic Files” until 1:00 in the morning. My train doesn’t have a king-sized water bed for me to float around on, or comfy pajamas or a glass of warm milk, so the conditions have to be just right for me to get my beauty sleep. The Quiet Car is the best invention since the electric hairbrush that my Dad once bought for my sisters that pulled all their hair out.
I know you’re probably thinking, aren’t the terms “quiet” and “me” mutually exclusive? And the answer is, not when I’m asleep. It’s such a great idea that I got to thinking that maybe they could have an Odorless Car too, where you’re not allowed to eat Chinese food or a banana that stinks up the whole place, or a Car For People Who Have Watched “Game of Thrones” the Night Before, so they don’t spoil what happened during the Battle of Winterfell for everybody else.
The conductor gets on the PA system and delivers a flawless monologue, possibly regarding the benefits and charms of the Quiet Car, and about how anyone disregarding the rules of the Quiet Car should not sit in the Quiet Car, and how the Quiet Car is the best invention since the electric hairbrush. However, he leaves his compartment door open during the announcement so that all you hear is the word “Quiet Car” several times and a bunch of feedback. After the announcement he moves through the Quiet Car yelling, “GOOD MORNING! TICKET PLEASE! THANK YOU!” to every customer, so loudly that they can be sure to hear it even if they are at home watching “Forensic Files.”
And wouldn’t you know it, after all that, some guy is yakking on his cell phone. I say to him, “Excuse me, but this is the Quiet Car.” “Sorry, I had no idea,” he says. “Didn’t you hear the conductor give an announcement through a bunch of feedback that may or may not have said that this was the Quiet Car?” “Actually, I didn’t hear anything because I was taking a call at the time.”
All of a sudden I’m a librarian, enforcing the rules of my library. “Hey you: put your feet down! Do you do that at home?” “Yes, of course.” I do, too, come to think of it. “Well, do it quietly. If you’d like, I can point you towards the periodicals, and also we have some great stuff on microfiche.” Then the train stops and a family with a crying baby gets on. What am I supposed to do now? I did the only thing I could think of, and directed the baby over to the reference section.
That guy’s cell phone rings again and I don’t want to yell at him, because I would be violating the rules of the Quiet Car. Using American Sign Language, I explain to him in no uncertain terms that I do not know American Sign Language. So I had to continue the conversation using the rules of “Charades.” He tugged on his ear, which I assumed meant “sounds like,” then I pointed to my nose, which I assumed meant “smells like.” He pointed to his shoe and my rear, which I assumed meant “where are the paperbacks?”
Just then two people started coughing at the same time. Were they trying to communicate, in violation of section 22.7 of the Quiet Car Regulations? It sounded like Morse code so I started to write down the short coughs and the long coughs as I heard them. When I was done, it was obvious by looking at the conversation that my wife is the only one who can read my handwriting. If you’re going to cough, at least use your library cough.
I finally get to sleep, but I’m awakened five seconds later by the train’s air horn at 150 decibels, because the Quiet Car is located in the head car where the horn is. And now there’s a guy with a dog, and the dog is sneezing, some would say deliberately. And there is a persistent rumble, and I can’t figure out where it’s coming from. It’s probably somebody receiving a text message, so I walk around the car looking over everyone’s shoulder to see if anyone recently received a text message, and from whom. The people in the Quiet Car are up to some unusual things, if you believe everything you read.
I sit back down but the rumbling is still there. I whisper quietly to the guy next to me, “You hear that rumbling?” He says, “I think it’s your stomach.” I can’t wait until somebody invents a Pizza Car. Even with all its problems, I still love the Quiet Car, and I would shout it from the highest mountain top if it weren’t in violation of section 64.3 of the Quiet Car Regulations.
Well, I didn’t get enough rest on the train and I fell asleep during “Forensic Files.” It’s okay, I’ve seen the episode twelve times already. It’s the one where a lady is killed on the train while using her cell phone, and everyone assumes the husband did it, but is that really the end of the story?
Support live music! Join Rick and the No Options band for some live Thanksgiving Weekend rock & roll on Saturday evening, Nov. 30, 9 p.m. at the PJ’s Restaurant, 84 Route 6, Baldwin Place
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