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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Talking Transportation: Travel Now, Talk Later

By Jim Cameron

Special to WestportNow

I love my cell phone. But I’m not crazy about other peoples’ cellphones, especially when they use them in a selfish or illegal manner.


You do know it’s against the law to talk on a cellphone while driving in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, right?

Yes, cellphone addicts are allowed to drive and talk if they use a “hands-free” device, but even this begs the question of where their attention should be, i.e. on the road.

I honestly wonder what soccer moms with an SUV full of kids are thinking when they drive down busy streets juggling a latte in one hand and a cellphone in the other. Don’t they love their kids?

Local police have told me writing tickets for this offense is like shooting fish in a barrel. The first offense is usually just a warning, but some people never learn and have piled up three or four tickets.

Once, when stuck in crawling traffic on I-95, I actually saw a guy reading a book. I’ve seen other drivers shaving or putting on make-up. Give me a break!

In the words of the NPR “Car Talk” guys’ bumper sticker: “Drive Now, Talk Later.” But I’d carry that message to other travel environments as well, especially on the train.

When people leave the personal cocoon of their private car and move into mass transit they cannot take their selfish behaviors with them. In my car I can turn up the radio and enjoy a cigar, but on the train I have to share my ride with others.

For several years now the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council has been trying to persuade Metro-North to establish “Quiet Cars” on commuter trains—cellphone-free environments where riders seeking peace don’t need to hear some self-centered hedge-fund dealer yelling at his trading desk in a voice that carries through the entire car.

Amtrak pioneered the “Quiet Car” concept to rider acclaim, but Metro-North refuses even to experiment with the idea, instead pushing its “please be considerate of other riders” public service campaign, to only modest success.

If we used to have smoking and nonsmoking cars, why can’t we have “Quiet Cars” as well?

What I enjoy most is watching cellphone users with the new Bluetooth wireless ear clips, chattering away to nobody in particular. “It’s me.” Who cares? “I’m on the train.” Yeah, I can tell. “Just thought I’d check in.” I wish I could check out. “What’s happening?” “My blood pressure is rising!”

But wait, fellow travelers—it could possibly get worse. Recently the FAA was considering allowing cellphone use in-flight. Could you imagine a five- hour trans-con, crammed into a center seat, between two people determined to talk the entire way—and who’ve brought extra back-up batteries just to be sure?

Fortunately, saner minds prevailed and that idea was shot down.

On a recent flight I had to ask the Gen-X’er sitting next to me three times to turn off her cell phone and stop texting her “buds” as we revved up for take-off. Finally, a call to the stewardess separated the gal from her toys until we landed. But if looks could kill.

OK, I’ll admit that I do use my cellphone on the train, but I always make the call short, and cup my hand around the mouthpiece—something like “I’ll be home by 7, but you guys go ahead and eat.”

If a longer call is necessary I get out of my seat and use the vestibule area so as not to intrude on others’ peace. And to make sure that incoming calls don’t bother anyone, I leave my phone on vibrate.

Remember: A ticket on the train buys you transportation, not the right to annoy your fellow passengers with a recitation of your woes. And when you’re driving, will you please hang up?

James Cameron (Editor’s Note: Jim Cameron has been a commuter out of Darien for 17 years. He is chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, a member of the Coastal Corridor Transportation Investment Area, and the Darien Representative Town Meeting. The opinions expressed here are his own, and not necessarily those of the groups on which he serves. You can reach him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or  For the full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, visit


Posted 12/27/08 at 05:30 AM  Permalink


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Bingo… What is it going to take before people stop talking and driving?  A minor fender bender or a dead neighbor.  The human mind is actually not very good at multi-tasking as many seem to think.  Tests have shown that if you are doing a task with “X” amount of brain waves and you are presented with another think to do, the brain just divides the"X” by 2. That means you are thinking less about everything you are keeping it between the lanes.  As a person who rides a motorcycle, I’m constantly exposed to idiots who turn left and “didn’t see me” and others with more important things to do than to just pay attention.  Texting while driving is another convenience masking as a killer. Next time you look at the driver coming toward you and they are looking down, guess what they are doing. 
  WNBC now even downloads traffic information to your cell phone.  How convenient.  AHHHHH… !!!

Posted by john shuck on December 27, 2008 at 05:44 PM | #

Why are cel conversations in normal or low tones of voice unacceptable but conversations between two adjacent people in normal or low tones of voice are acceptable?

Posted by Jeff Kiker on December 27, 2008 at 07:51 PM | #

I once read: The cell phone user is subconsciously “throwing” [AKA yelling] his voice to a distant person, thus putting it on a higher “pitch.” As a result, the sound waves penetrate proximate, but “non participative,” people’s ears and auras as an “unwelcome” sound, making it “annoying” and therefore “unacceptable.” One has become an unwilling participant in one-half a conversation, making it doubly RUDE.
The only known cure is to YELL back answers to the cell phone user.

Posted by Tom Feeley on December 27, 2008 at 09:29 PM | #

Because if you have not noticed…most people feel they need to speak in a louder tone to be heard by the person they are conversing with..“can you hear me now”!!! I can’t hear you!!!! I am on the train and I have bad reception!!!! let me talk louder so that you and everyone else can hear me talk about something unimportant that can really wait until I am at home. Most cell phone users have a problem modulating their tone and volume unlike people who are conversing in person on the train. If everyone who talked on their cell phone did so in a respectful manner, it would not present such a problem.  Yes, I will admit I have been guilty of conversing on my cell phone while commuting on Metro-North, but in a soft and civil tone. It it a matter of courtesy…right up there with giving up your seat to an elderly, handicap or pregnant woman…and not putting your feet or bags on the seats.

Posted by Jamie Walsh on December 27, 2008 at 09:40 PM | #

I promise to be considerate of people who eat garlic pizza and kimchi on the train home if everyone else promises to not shoot me dirty looks and give me rude remarks if I’m talking on my cel in the seat in a normal speaking voice.

What the heck, I can dream, can’t I…..

Posted by Jeff Kiker on December 28, 2008 at 12:11 AM | #

Yeah…I love the kimchi , garlic pizza and liverwurst and onion eaters too. I happen to enjoy all of the above myself…just not while I commute or visit with friends or ...well kiss my wife, unless of course she is eating the same food. Kimchi and liverwurst and onions are unlikely on her menu, however.  My philosophy is…” if you think it’s remotely offensive… it probably is offensive”.

Posted by Jamie Walsh on December 28, 2008 at 01:10 AM | #

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