Zipping it

All quiet on the T? Not quite.

By Charles P. Pierce
January 30, 2011

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Dear Richard Davey: As it happens, I take the Acela to New York quite a bit, and I’m a big fan of the “quiet car.” It’s not so much that I enjoy silence, it’s just that there are so few places these days where you are justified by law and regulation to glare at idiots who talk loudly on cellphones in public. No, dear, I do not care precisely how many pensioners your hedge fund swindled last month. In most places, you have to put up with this bilge from your fellow citizens. Free speech and all. But on the quiet car, we are all free to tell those fellow citizens that their lives are as boring as pudding, that the details of those lives are unworthy of being shared, lest the rest of us rip off our ears with salad tongs in utter desperation. In this spirit, I say bravo to your notion of establishing a quiet car on the MBTA’s various commuter rail lines. This is what general managers of the T are supposed to be doing. However, I do foresee some problems. For example, the average commuter rail train is not exactly a stealth vehicle. The quiet inside is likely to be foiled by the rattling and banging outside. The problem we have now is not people talking on cellphones. It’s people yelling into cellphones because the noise of the train is drowning out everything else. Maybe we start with a “no yelling” car. Baby steps.

Charles P. Pierce can be reached at