The modern dilemma

OK, so here’s the problem: I’m sitting in the Quiet Zone of a Virgin Pendolino and a bloke who got on at Carlisle has been talking very loudly into his phone. So, knowing that, since this is Britain, no-one will say anything to him (opting instead for the well-worn and much-loved strategy of rolling one’s eyes and tutting barely audibly) I decide to walk over and have a friendly chat.

Me: “Excuse me, but you do know you’re in the Quiet Zone?”

Bloke with phone: “Yes, I read the sign.”

Me: “Okay… But that doesn’t really explain why you were on the phone, does it?”

Bloke with annoyed look on his face: “Point taken.”

Me: “Okay, then.”

So now I’m sitting here, nervously expecting him at any moment to make another call, just to send a signal that he won’t be told what to do by annoying Scotspersons. And what do I do then? Others in the carriage saw and heard me speak to him the first time; they’ll expect me to say something, won’t they?

I have a number of options if this happens:

1) Ignore him, thereby establishing beyond doubt that I am less than a man, worthy only of disdain. But then, I’m an MP, so I’m kind of used to that.

2) I could walk past his table, grab his phone, run through the train at full speed and try to flush it down the chemical toilet. This course of action could actually result in the first proper fight I’ve been in since 1975, not to mention the prospect of a large amount of media coverage round about the same time as my trial.

3) I could pretend I was only travelling as far as Preston and get out there.

4) I could shove a DVD into my laptop and plug in my earphones – then he could talk all he wants and I wouldn’t know or care.

Any other suggestions gratefully received.



Filed under Society, Whimsy

34 responses to “The modern dilemma

  1. You’d have thought a former rail Minister would have some sway with the employees on said train.

  2. I’m sure there is some anti- terror legislation that could cover this.

    I usually try a Samuel L Jackson accent with
    ‘Hey – Don’t push me Mother F%$£er’

  3. Johnny Norfolk

    Live and let live and ignore the police state, or light up a cig or pipe and blow it all over him.

  4. Of course you may have done everyone a favour by approaching him in the first place and you might have just wasted several minutes of your life worrying about something that is never going to happen.

    However, if it does, there is always option 5 – going and finding the conductor and getting him or her to sort the problem out…………

  5. Tom

    You could just wait for his mobile signal to cut out near the Lake District. But short of making a “do you know who I am?” scene, the DVD option sounds the most practical.

  6. Why not lock him up without charge for 42 days?

  7. Good idea, except the Lords have screwed that option, haven’t they?

  8. Ronnie

    Tom, you have seemingly ignored the possibility of coughing surreptitiously, using the phrase “ahem” with a lifted eyebrow, or , obviously, using your position as an MP to impose restrictive taxes, id cards, smoking bans etc and make his life a misery for daring to interrupt your quiet moment.

  9. John

    Reply to:

    1) OK you’re an MP, but on the bright side you’re a decent fella.
    But whatever you do, don’t tell him you’re an MP

    2) What happened in 1975? A fight in the playground?

    3) Acting like a whimp now.

    4) Probably what you did in the end.

  10. Just go and get the guard, easy

  11. Are you wi-fi blogging??

    You could always crack out the ‘Do you know who I am?’ tactic… “I used to be very important in trains, don’t you know!”

  12. Matt

    5) Go over him again and say “I am disappointed in your lack of manners” and then sit down and plug your earphones in. You will have made your point and you will look like a gentleman in the eyes of your fellow passengers. And if you get the inflection right, you can make it sound quite cutting.

    6) Find a guard on the train (good luck!) and get them to do your dirty work for you. You may feel guilt for snitching, but it will probably have the desired effect without the embarassment of confrontation again (unless he sees you going to find the guard).

  13. Jim Baxter

    I usually ham up the weedgie in such situations. That seems to communicate, er, ‘unpredictability’. If we’re going to be stereotyped we might as well get something out of it. Often works, except in Inverness.

    What do you call a moving Virgin train?

    A case of brake failure.

    No, that’s not fair, it wasn’t their fault and they’re very good these days.

    I’m sorry you’re not in charge of them any more. All the best.

  14. Option 6

    Start taking notes of his conversation and ask him to spell difficult names?

  15. You could make a passionate speech to the other passengers to get them on sides, again hamming up that Scottish accent with a rousing finale of:

    “they may take our lines, but they’ll never take our Fiefdom!”

    (Highly amusing post by the way. Very Tony Hawks of ‘Around Ireland with a Fridge’ fame.)

  16. Ring my pals down the road at GCHQ and ask them to interject unsettling pleasantries into his conversations.

    PS Well done, I’ve never had the courage to do more than fume and/or give “the look”.

    PPS In FGW quiet coaches you’re not supposed to use earphones to listen to music on account on the annoyingly tinny noise they make. I guess it’s still different on Virgin Trains on which they used, at least on their cross county diesels, to encourage passengers to listen to Virgin Radio by providing headphone jacks out of which it came – do they still do so now the station’s changed its name?

  17. Shelldrake

    Option 7
    Put earplugs in (you must have some from your last sleeper trip) then put headphones on and play music far, far too loud. Feign ignorance and look surprised when phone-bloke complains.

    PS It’s Pendolino btw

    PPS Of course, you could try flushing his phone down the toilet as you suggest but I reckon you’d get to the other end of the train before you found one that works.

  18. Harold

    I don’t see the point of those quiet carriages – an example:

    On the train home from work last week there was a lady very quietly phoning her husband to pick her up from the station. This was met by glares, tuts and a general “shush” from the carriage.

    Meanwhile a group of teenagers 2 rows back were talking loudly, rustling crisp packets and knocking back Stellas from the bar. This was far more annoying and disturbing than the lady on the phone and was met with no reaction from others for the duration of the journey as they were abiding by the signs saying no mobiles/ipods…etc.

    Also, you can be in a quiet carriage but you still have an announcement from the ‘train manager’ every 30 seconds giving you an update on the engineering works at rugby, telling you the shop is open, that you can’t use this or that ticket for this journey, why not upgrade, look at the safety leaflet, dont forget your possessions…etc

    There’s nothing quiet about them.

  19. Harry Lime

    Wait until he makes the call then walk over, lean down and burst into song right next to the mouthpiece – I suggest a robust Rodgers & Hammerstein medley will do the trick.

  20. Jo

    You could always send him an anonymous bluetooth message? Course, you might have to send it to everyone else on the train first, but you’d get there in the end…

  21. Having a heated argument with an imaginary friend over his rudeness tends to do the trick.

    So I’ve heard. Ahem.

  22. Lady Moans

    when he is next on the phone, saunter over, and say loudly enough to be heard by the phone call recipient,

    “put that phone down and come back to me…”

    works better if your a woman of course…

  23. Nigel Harris

    Tom, in a totally shameless attempt to achieve a link to your own world-class (!) blog and hopefully prompt a little traffic to my own (ahem…) new blog, I’ve just posted a response there about the funniest way I ever heard to deal with this kind of uncouth individual. Anyone interested will find it at (Shuffles quietly out).

  24. Harold’s point is a good one – I was recently on a train travelling the length of Britain while a Tory and a Republican in the seats above me discussed the merits of a McCain presidency and why Obama was wrong on everything.

    This was intensely annoying, especially since many of the points they made/facts they quoted were completely erroneous. But I couldn’t very well ask them to stop talking because their stupidity was annoying me. So I put my earphones on and turned the music loud enough to drown out their objectionable wittering.

    Then I got asked to turn my music down! There is no justice.

    Perhaps I should have engaged another passenger in conversation about the imminent revolution or something, to get my own back.

  25. hopisen

    My other pet hate is people who play music on their mobile phone without headphones.

    I once leant over to one guy and gave him mine, asking him if he’d tried these amazing new inventions.

    Since I can’t do that every time, I also want to have a ringtone that goes really, really loudly “people who play music through their phone are d***h***ds”.

    Then whenever someone got on the 159 and started playing the macarena at top volume, I could just play my response back at them….

  26. Get your own phone out, and phone someone randomly and insert the following diatribe into proceedings:

    “Yeah, I’m on the train. In the Quiet Coach, actually. At least it was the Quiet Coach until some jumped-up, egotistical, idiotic #%&$£&%@ [insert expletives of your choice here] decided that everyone just had to listen to his inane bletherings, so I thought I’d give you a phone, that way I can listen to someone I like!”

  27. John

    The correct response to a refused request is to ask a passing Virgin staffer to tell him to switch off. It works in first class.

    And thus we learn that, as a true socialist, you are travelling standard class and don’t have catering crew going back and forth. Do you see more City wide boys in there nowadays?

    I find the citizens of Milton Keynes are the perfect example of the difference between literacy and comprehension. Presumably they can read the words “quiet zone”, they just have no idea what it means.

  28. Liz

    Kudos for even attempting it, frankly.

    My favourite was being on a packed GNER train (Peterborough to Durham) just before Christmas with a complete arse who carried on the same earsplittingly-loud business conversation on his hands-free for 2 hours straight. I had my iPod going, but it was only just enough. On the approach to York, an elderly and venerable lady emerged from seats behind me, picked up the hands-free, switched it off, hissed “Nobody really cares, dear” at the complete arse, and exited the train. To applause.

  29. Ivan Wolde

    Fascinating. I did not realise people still traveled in trains.

    Have you lost your driver’s licence or something?

  30. I was on a Japanese Shinkansen (bullet train) last year. One chap’s mobile rang much to his horror. He took the call in-between the carriages then when he came back to his seat personally apologised to the surrounding passengers to have caused them such inconvenience.

    Not only that, the refreshments attendants walked out backwards from each carriage so as not to show their backs to the passengers as this would be considered rude.

    Chances of either scenario happening on a UK train are probably about the same as me discovering the Higgs-Boson with a magnifying glass.

  31. I meant to update that post by saying that a very nice woman who sat opposite me on the later part of the journet apologised to me and another passenger when her phone went off. She only took the call after she had walked out of the Quiet Zone. She hadn’t been there when i had the conversation with the first bloke, so she was just being genuinely considerate.

  32. Bedd Gelert

    Shoot the f**ker with a Taser – It’s the ahnly langwidge they ahndustand !!

  33. Robin

    Get out your dictaphone, set it to record and put it on the table in front of him…

  34. I think that you should either have said something to him or gone and found a member of staff. Trains are often tense places because of the proximity and the fact that you cannot easily walk away. You might enjoy reading this tale:

    May all your journeys be quiet ones.

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