The Quiet Ones

Amtrak’s Quiet Car is our last bastion of civility and calm. And we will defend it.

Comments: 171

  1. Ours has become a society of noise. I have spent many days hiking and climbing in the Sierra Nevada Mountains; when I would get back to the local towns like bishop California, it was like an assault on my ears.

    From just the sound of the wind, the chirping of the birds, and the sounds of the streams, you are thrust into the middle of loud exhausts, boom cars and trucks, constant noise in the restaurants, that some call music in the form of screeching pop singers and of course the cell phone addicts that can not shut up for ten minutes.

    There are cell phone blockers available; they are illegal to use, but I doubt the FCC monitors will be riding in the quiet car, or in my case BART. I drive a pickup, and constantly see these people driving, using their phones and texting. They do not seem to be able to be by themselves or to function without someone to talk to.

    There also seems to be a culture of rudeness associated with these people. They are talking on them in the grocery line while other wait. They walk down the sidewalks oblivious to other pedestrians. They act like their use of the phone gives them some sort of priority ahead others around them. We see that in the quiet car example.

    They are telling you, they are more important than you, and you are interfering in their very important business, no matter how really unimportant they really are.
    Unfortunately we can not take their phone and do certain things with it, although we would like to.

  2. The ones that really annoy me to no end are those that slam into you from behind or step on your heals because the are so busy talking on their cell phones they don't see you. They just can't figure out why you are annoyed or in their way. Of course, they still keep on talking without even saying, "Sorry!"

  3. And hence, the source of the problem. Volume has become another method for publicly signaling one's own import, a constant concern for the richest and poorest. With other signals of wealth and influence becoming harder to discern, this has become the new method for reminding those around that they must defer to your will.

  4. A barbaric practice they have here in Hawaii (probably in other parts of the US as well) is loud automobile speakers that broadcast repulsive noises to everyone outside, within a hearing distance of a block if not more. The noises these speakers make are incredibly ugly. At best, bad music; more often, a sound like dinosaurs copulating (admittedly, we don't know exactly what that sounded like, but can imagine . . .). About a year ago, there was a local movement to ban such loud speakers, but it seems to have fizzled, faced with the opposition of car stereo shops and their cretinous patrons. Remember, what I'm talking about is not car stereos in the old sense - listening to music INSIDE one's car. Instead, it is a machine which makes the public spaces of the street horrible places in which to find oneself, as one's ears are battered with the worst of all possible noises.

    Whenever I hear it, I think: oh, for a rocket propelled grenade launcher!

  5. Those are boom cars, or boom trucks. In Redondo Beach California it got so bad along the Esplanade that the city wrote and enforced a noise ordinance. If the sound coming from your car is measured above the limit, the cops take the speakers for evidence.. They will give you a screw driver and wire clippers and you can remove them yourself, or they will do it for you, not as nice as you would do it yourself of course.

    I can not remember how many times I wished I could just walk up to one of these cars and shoot the radio and amplifiers. If you could make a high powered microwave gun, you could fry the transistors. But the FCC would frown on that.

  6. Donald: The "barbaric practice" and "cretinous patrons" in Hawaii are why I sold my dream retirement home on the Big Island and moved to Provence in the south of France ten years ago.

    Every culture has it's problems but my choice of this village turned out to be the best decision in my adult boom boxes and no inconsiderate rudeness in public places like restaurants.

    People here greet each other with Bon Jour even though they are strangers, and restaurant guests speak in tones low enough not to be understood at the next table.

    Vive la France!

  7. I've often have the fantasy of seeing one of these very loud cars driving down the street booming Beethoven's Ninth or some very loud Wagner. I'd love to see whether such behavior was treated with same passerby indifference as is the usual hip-hop music.

    I suspect the crowd's nearly-unanimous reaction would be "Turn that d*mned noise off!" (Only they wouldn't say "d*mned".)

  8. Traveling used to be a civil undertaking. Air travel became uncivil when we were required to undergo strip searches so that we could become over-packed into seats that prevented movement in everything save the ability to barely elevate a few complimentary pretzels to our mouths.

    Travel by Amtrak is more civil yet, too often lacks civility. The route from Albany to Chicago, The Lake Shore, has old cars with a consistent vibration that makes reading nearly impossible. Every time that I have taken that train, there was at least one passenger who was drunk, noisy, and foul-mouthed. Such a person sat behind me on a recent trip during which my thoughts could not waver from the hope that he was not going to vomit on me.

    However, the trains out of Chicago continuing west, or north to Minneapolis/St. Paul, are much more civil. These two-level cars are smoother and quieter. The passengers seem to be more respectful. The conductors are more out-going and friendly, yet quick to react to passengers who need a reminder of the rules (including friendly threats to be removed by "authorities" at the next stop).

    The contrast is striking. The difference is due both to the physical environment (better cars) and to the conductors' proactive behavior. Both are needed for civility.

  9. Those of you relishing your quiet oasis have every reason to defend its precepts.

    Noise has become ever louder, more intrusive and ubiquitous. Some of it comes from those misused decibel-excessive ear buds, the amped-up health club spin classes, the bass-booms of car radios reverberating out of open windows we are forced to listen to, the ubiquitous retail hyper-Muzac thanks to "consultants" who need to justify their fees by recommending busy-noise in the key of "blast"....This has already created a generation of deafened young people who need to speak louder and turn up the volume on everything before a grey hair ever dares to appear.

    The NYC 2007 Noise Codes are chimeric. Any one wishing to have, for example, a permit for the use of an amplified musical event may do so. It is issued by the police & solely designates the time span...there is no mention of the allowable decibel level nor indications of penalties if say nothing of the absence of a sound monitor to force compliance.So what is the point?

    With the valid concern Mayor Bloomberg has shown for our health in his smoking ban...his soda size al...I fail to understand why hearing impacts & resultant stress foisted cavalierly on the rest of us have any less validity.

  10. Great column. Don't forget doctor's offices, too--if you are awaiting some procedure or waiting for a relative who is undergoing one, you have to listen to loud daytime television, the more obnoxious the more prevalent, it seems. Maybe that is supposed to allay some people's discomfort. It adds to mine. I have been known to ask nurses if I can turn it off when others are not in the waiting room, and they seem to agree. If others are into it, I have been known to wait in the hallway and let the nurse know where he/she can find me.

  11. Just turn off the TV; don't ask for permission. I do it all the time, and nobody has ever objected.

  12. This is an absolute scourge in upstate New York. My mother has been battling cancer for the past year. Wherever we go for medical appointments - from surgery to chemo to the ER to plain old checkups - there is the monster blasting inanity from a corner, and sometimes more than one! My brothers and I endured six straight hours of game shows and infomercials at St. Peter's Hospital in Albany the morning of her big surgery. One of us had to be in the room at all times as we anxiously awaited news of her condition. When the surgeon finally emerged, he didn't have the courtesy to find a quiet, private space for discussion, but delivered the verdict standing in the doorway of this infernal waiting room. There's nothing like hearing the words "massive tumor" and "five-year prognosis" to the soundtrack of The Price Is Right. It's as if Americans have lost the ability not only to value but even tolerate silence. I find the prospect terrifying. If you cannot bear to go an hour without a steady stream of noise in your ear, how on earth can you manage to *think*?

  13. I LOATHE those TVs in waiting rooms. Can you believe that even pediatricians' offices have them? The very thing they should NOT NOT NOT be promoting. It's sickening.

  14. What a terrific article - thank you for this. I love riding the train when I have to go not too far south, and I always sit in the quiet car. Invariably I find myself being the "shoosher" to others, which I have no problem with (okay, i actually enjoy it, and I'm always quite polite). On my last trip home from DC I had a man sit next to me as everyone was settling in. He took out a laptop, three cellphones and an iPod. I stopped him before he got comfy, reminded him where he was and he made tracks pretty fast. The look on his face when I told him he wasn't allowed to speak loudly, etc. was priceless. "Why or how could anyone not talk on their cellphone for three straight hours?" it seemed to say. I wish Amtrak would make the signs in the car a bit larger - and make it obvious when you get on the train. Some people honestly don't know when they get on (probably because they were yapping on their cellphones as they boarded and didn't hear the announcements.)

  15. "Some people honestly don't know when they get on (probably because they were yapping on their cellphones as they boarded and didn't hear the announcements.)"

    --beautiful. Too true.

  16. Re: Cell phones

    I assume some folks just can't put them down because they aren't comfortable being alone, having only their own thoughts or a book for company. There are surely reasons for this, but I have yet to see an in-depth examination of the condition.

  17. The condition is aptly described as mental incontinence -- the inability to withhold a thought, any thought, no matter how trivial.

  18. You say screens with ads in rest rooms? Omg, where? I'll stay away.
    Stores impose obnoxious music, so I must bring my own radio/music in order to buy basic necessities of life in supermarkets and drug stores. Otherwise it's an ordeal with that noise blaring. What amazes me is how people are so used to it--most retail workers have to bear this noise for a full day of work, while I can't wait to get out of there.

    Most stores say they can't control the volume if asked to. But recently in a CVS they turned it down, to my relief. My health club also.

    Recently my doctor--affiliated with Weill Cornell- put a TV in the waiting room. Tho not loud, it still interferes with talking to the receptionist. They assume most patients like the channel they choose. They claim they sent out a survey--did patients want a TV? --and enough said yes --they claim. As if a patient would switch doctors due to no TV. I never got asked and I hate it--I try to sit far away from it, and I keep my own headphones on. Even static on the radio is preferable. If the appointment is delayed I walk around the block. I may look for a doctor with a quiet waiting room.

    Retail stores assume the music increases buying but do they know how many customers cut their shopping short, and buy less due to jangled nerves, or being unable to concentrate and make buying decisions? Imposition of obnoxious unwanted sound is one of the worst abuses.

  19. Yes! Right on! And getting a store or restaurant to turn down the obnoxious sound [often, sound that doesn't deserve the title of "music"] is too often a lost cause. I think part of the problem is that too many earbuds in too many ears has brought about partial deafness in a large part of the population. Plus, of course, the fact that 99.9% of any given group just doesn't care if they're offending anyone.

  20. We once asked our waiter in a restaurant blaring that horrible electronic dance music if the music could be turned down, and his response was, "No -- this is actually pretty quiet for us." A friend tells me that restaurant owners deliberately play loud club music to turn the tables faster. Well it worked in our case -- for good, because that place will never see us again. Also, judging from the volume of the music blasting into people's headphones, earbuds, whatever they are, which allows you to hear even the half-witted lyrics to their music quite clearly, I agree with Sandy many younger people are partially deaf.

  21. Complaining about the way someone types is a bit over the top. However, having been trapped in a regular Acela car on my last trip to NYC, I believe I will do the hoofing to get a space in the Quiet Car the next time. There is nothing better than being alone with one's thoughts for a few hours at a time.

  22. No, it's not over the top. Tim seems to think that everyone ELSE should follow the Quiet Car rules. Doesn't work like that.

  23. Okay, I'm going to sound like an old curmudgeon but I'm going to say it anyway. I think the quiet car reflects what a lot of people (of a certain age and older) grew up with and that is courtesy. Simple, common courtesy is seemingly extinct these days. That, along with a sense of privacy. Why is everyone so willing to let the world hear the most intimate details of their lives? Whether it's the messy divorce or recent surgery or lousy date, I really don't want to hear it. Whatever happened to having some dignity, class, and self-respect along with a respect for others?

    And I take issue with your comment that there are no ladies in public spaces. There are plenty of ladies (gentlemen too), maybe you don't notice us because you're too busy listening to your headphones and tapping on your laptop.

  24. I hate to break it to you but I've witnessed plenty of older ladies and gentlemen violate the 'rules' of the quiet car.

  25. The quiet car is not the only place where certain people persist in appropriate noisiness. I once had to threaten a guy sitting next to me in a movie theatre with violence if he didn't shut up. I would have, too, if he hadn't finally understood that he was annoying me and at least a quarter of the people in the theatre with his loud comments about the movie -- and I would have to drag him out by the hair if he couldn't keep his comments to himself. Several people stopped me on my way out and thanked me. I felt vindicated.

  26. I used to mentally add up the hours I spent commuting via Amtrak between Providence and Boston, 5 days a week, 48 weeks a year, the cumulative weeks and months spent watching the Boston suburbs rush by through the window, and I would despair at all that time lost to travel. But now that I'm not doing that commute anymore, I find I really miss the Quiet Car, the hushed, old-fashioned bookishness of it, and the shared sense of purpose among the silent Quiet Car community to defend, at all costs, our respite. I don't get that anymore, anywhere. This column made me smile.

  27. Soon after 9/11 I often had to travel between NY and DC. Even after flights resumed, I'd become enamored of Amtrak as a soul-soothing substitute.

    It was several months and several rides before I realized the conductor was announcing the first car on every train was the quiet car.

    I had heard for those weeks instead him say, "the crying car" -- it seemed right.

  28. Wonderful article! I ride the Quiet Car frequently between Milwaukee and Chicago and we abide by the same code of behavior as described in the article. We are a self-policing bunch and and any loud ignoramus will politely be made aware that they are in the wrong car. The signs for the Quiet Car are smallish and many people do not notice them, often because they have been talking on their cell phone nonstop while boarding and are so focused on their conversation that they are oblivious to their surroundings.

    Not every Quiet Car devotee fits the stereotype. Once I was behind a young man as we made our way through the train and was surprised to see that he was headed for the Quiet Car. His out fit was rough and tough: his baggy pants were somehow staying up mid-buttock and his hoodie and other accessories made him look vaguely threatening. In short, the fellow did not look like he would seek out a car of companionable silence. I was so certain that he did not realize that he was in the Quiet Car that I decided to tell him where he was. He turned, smiled sweetly, and said "I know, it is the only civilized way to travel these days."

  29. We have let he constant plug-in take over with an overwhelming hucksterism of how wonderful it all is for us.

    I live near the Pacific Ocean and very often see people walking or running along the beach with ear phones plugged in, shutting out the soothing sound of waves that have attracted men and animals since they first crawled out of the seas.

  30. Whew, I thought I was the weird one when I asked my wife to leave the TV off at 05:00 in the morning. I explained I liked the quiet of the early morning to get ready for least she went to the bedroom and left the living room in peace.

  31. The sound of typing on a keyboard is absolutely one of the most exasperating and annoying omnipresent sounds to have ubiquitously and increasingly assaulted our public spaces in the past ten years. I. for one, can neither think, write nor read when being forced to listen to that infernal clatter. Not to mention having the distraction of a glaring screen in your peripheral vision.

  32. One thing I have noticed since moving to Norway ten years ago, is how quiet it is here. Granted, the loudest places sometimes are public busses on weekend nights as young people (some already intoxicated) head out for a night on the town. But the volume level in stores, other public places, and outside (cars rarely honk their horns here) is noticably quiet. It is a very peaceful feeling not to be assaulted by other peoples' noise and always somewhat disconcerting to be re-exposed to the culture of relentless noise when I come back to the U.S. Maybe the Grinch was right when he said, "Oh the noise noise noise noise." The art of civility and common courtesy has gone the way of the Eisenhower Republican.

  33. As I type this I am sitting in a hotel in Chicago where over the course of the last three days I have gotten to know the family across the hall. They are in Chicago for Christmas shopping with their young daughter and extended family. How do I know all of this? They use the hallway as an extension of their room, disciplining their daughter out there (who knew that a time out could be so noisy), making plans out there, arguing out there.

    Hotel hallways, like the Quiet Car, used to be zones of calm and respect for others. Now they are just another place to be noisy.

  34. Thanks, Tim (if I may be so familiar). There seems to be less and less awareness of the world outside of oneself. Is this the reason we have such partisan divides in politics? We have become a selfish people and our technology seems to give us permission to be so.

  35. Oh if only we had Spock-like powers to use the Vulcan shoulder grip and render the offenders senseless. Our defenders of the Quiet Car are like the Little Dutch Boy with his finger in the dike holding back the sea. The tide of rude behavior has grown into a tsunami of incivility. It's odd, because most people truly will give their fellow human a helping hand when the situation demands it. Acts of heroism by total strangers are not uncommon.

    Why then do so many act as though they are the only ones in a public space? It would be too simple to say that we have a bunch of spoiled brats running around. There's something deeper. In our highly individualistic society where crowds encourage the athlete who does the "victory dance" as much as the athlete seems to relish it, the open gloating, the in-your-face-I-don't-give-a-sh_t-what-you-think "add-dit-tude," there's a sadistic tinge in the public psyche that aspires to that line we're all familiar with: "go ahead, make my day."

    Maybe it is simply this: polite society is and always has been the exception rather than the rule, and truly polite people are the exception rather than the rule. Maybe the great unwashed masses, the wretched refuse from the teaming shores is really what most of we Americans are and are likely to always be. Relying on all our citizens to practice civility is public places? FAHGEDDABOWDITT.

  36. This article is a bit preachy. Perhaps the "Quiet Car" should be redefined as the "Absolute Silence" car. It is tedious for couples having a quiet and civilized conversation to be shushed by some self-appointed monitor.

  37. Did you read the piece? The author specifically said that their voices rose, repeatedly, after each reminder to be quiet. It's possible that the ambient noise issue in our society makes people unable to speak in low voices any more.

  38. Then stay out of the quiet car. I'm not interested in anyone's conversation and that's why I go to the quiet car. Silence is golden.

  39. Then go with in the other cars with the loud obnoxious people!

  40. It is so nice to read that one is not alone.

    A neighbor stopped to chat while I was working in the garden. I asked, innocently enough, "Is something wrong with your truck? It's making a really strange noise." He explained that he had a special (ahem) muffler put on to make that sound. (NB: loud, if that wasn't clear.)

    I said, not quite as innocently, "Well then it's not a 'muffler,' is it? It should be called an 'amplifier'."

    No no, an amplifier is music equipment. This was part of the truck's exhaust system, so that made it a muffler.

    Here is a universal, perfectly reasonable test., whether in a train car, outdoors or in a waiting room: I like quiet. You like talk/truck engine/music, etc. Is my quiet somehow intruding on your (conversation, noise, music)?

    The next article should be why so many people cannot live without noise.

  41. Excellent comment. I would also ask why so many people feel the need to be talking or texting with someone every free moment. Why are people so afraid to be alone with their thoughts?

  42. Moira: Perhaps they risk being truly bored with themselves? Profound ennui.

  43. "It was soft but incessant, and against the background silence, as maddening as a dripping faucet at 3 a.m." - same is true of your typing. I hope you understand.

  44. Typing and other soft mechanical noises are not quite the same as speech, which has patterns that our brains seem compelled to respond to. Nevertheless, I appreciate the point and for my part will avoid doing computer work in the quiet car.
    But I appreciate even more Mr. Kreider's article, both for that fantasy-fulfilling opening scene and for his confession of the typewriting episode. It's very painful to find one has transgressed a dearly held principle, and it happens to all of us at some point, because such principles do require effort against the grain. His grace in handling the situation helps give the rest of us courage.

  45. I think I first noticed it in the aggressive tone and plain shouting of TV newscasters, starting in the 1990s. Did Walter Cronkite shout news reports?

  46. I can't tell you how grateful I was to read your article. It's the first time I've encountered in print this sentiment, which I share profoundly. I bless the day I ended up in a Quiet Car -- by accident! -- and have treasured its availability ever since. I am not shy about asking people to respect the quiet. Just looking at Rebecca Mock's sweet animated drawing makes me feel peaceful. Thank you.

  47. Bravo! The quiet cars on Amtrak and now New Jersey Transit mean that I take the trains a lot more. Amtrak is ahead of NJT in terms of making announcements and letting people know they are in a Quiet Car. NJT requires quite a bit more work on the part of the passengers. However, most NJT riders -- including those who got onto the quiet car by accident -- are very sympathetic to the idea. Those who are most confused are non-English speaking passengers, especially visitors from outside of the US. Fortunately, they are also generally more considerate and make minimal use of their phones and loud conversations.

  48. It isn't necessary to be like Minniver Cheevy and seek out another more civilized era to time travel to in order to escape the obnoxiousity of modern America.

    It is possible to seek out a more permanent "Quiet Car" for living which is around the clock instead of only the duration of your train trip.

    I found my peace in a village in the south of France. I encourage others, who have the economic freedom to consider emigrating, to explore living in other countries while you still have the time.

    Don't just for your very lives!

  49. This is like a delightful sequel, if not accompaniment, to William F. Buckley Jr.'s "Why Don't We Complain?"

  50. Don't forget the leafblower, perhaps the most obnoxious device ever invented, and the bane of suburban existence. No day is sacred. They get louder every year. Their noise can carry for a mile. People who use them are apparently not bothered by them, and have no consideration for their impact on others. They are even used on campuses, a preposterously false savings since many people can't work when they are in the area.

  51. If I could, I would outlaw leafblowers. On top of the noise, they blow the leaves out into the street, forming a lovely slick mess the next time it rains. Oh, to need to apply the brakes when in the middle of a pile of leaves!

  52. I totally agree - with Chase- I live in an area with lots of trees (though a few less than 3 weeks ago) and the fall is visually spectacular. But throughout the fall, and much of the rest of the year, it's impossible to be outdoors because of the squads of leafblowers and other "landscaping" equipment. It's baffling how so many people can be so obnoxious and/or oblivious. Usually the leaves would soon blow into gullies and ditches in any case, where it's easy to put them directly in bags. Sometimes I don my Bose noise-cancellng headphones and watch amazed as a team of "landscapers" chase a few leaves all the way across someone lawn - onto someone else's!

  53. Every park in San Francisco has become a practice space for unseen aspiring musicians in recent years, hidden in tunnels or among the bushes. At Fort Funston at the coast last weekend, someone dragged a drum set into a thicket and offset the sound of the surf and sea breeze with semi-coherent thrashing.

    Perhaps that's just how urban life has evolved - like the talking and cell phone activity that's mostly kept me out of movie theaters in the 21st century. And I say this as someone to whose life conversation, music and technology are integral - recognizing that quiet and periodic disconnection can also have a place.

    As should, I hope, civility, and consideration for the lives and feelings of others.

    I absolutely love Rebecca Mock's illustrated graphic (on accompanying Tim Kreider's piece. Thank you, both.

  54. I intended to type "Rebecca Mock's *animated* graphic" at the bottom of my comment, not "illustrated graphic".

  55. Musicians end up in the park because of complaining neighbors, and practice rooms are expensive for students, and musicians in general. As you say, that's urban life, and it has been for a while. Sonny Rollins famously practiced on the Williamsburg Bridge to avoid bothering a pregnant neighbor. Not everybody plays like Sonny, but practice is the way to get there.

  56. From a fellow devotee of the Quiet Car who never hesitates to speak up when people ignore the rules, many thanks. Yes, we are way overloaded with noise and I recommend Susan Cain's book, Quiet, for a broader perspective on what makes insistent chatterboxes tick. A couple of years ago I discovered how indispensable a white noise app on an iPod (or whatever device you use) can be for drowning out unwelcome chatter or even heavy-handed typists. Actually the app ( has several levels of noise blockers (thought enhancers) each one named for a different color. I'd recommend the brown noise for work that requires concentration. There's an irony to needing a sound to block out noise, but it may be a sanity saver if you are on a train without a Quiet Car or in a building with construction going on next door.

  57. Stay out of the quiet car, Ralph.

  58. Great piece; it inspired me to write up this account of a recent experience I had in my local public library Quiet Room involving a cellphone going off, "Tinariwen in the Quiet Room:" What's key is clearly signalling one's own shame and apology about the ringtone as one scurries out the room. However, in the case I describe, the silence actually framed the moment of noise in a compelling manner. (Perhaps this is one additional value of a Quiet Car or Room.)

  59. I loved reading this and must admit that the clacking of typewriter keys, even on a laptop, can be jarring when all else is quiet. Thank you for respecting your quiet car fellow traveler by moving into another seat. That's often all it takes -- just a tiny readjustment of one's environment, to help another out. Meaningful,insightful conversation comes from what we learn in silence.

  60. Loved this article. While I enjoy stimulating conversations!, Ialso look forward to quiet
    time to think and reflect.It seems that as a society we are no longer at peace with the solitude of self and thoughts, we need the noise and distractions. Would love. to see restaurants with sections devoted to quiet conversation and not blaring music and/or

  61. Thank you very much for what needs to be said a million times. I think over population and the sop that being an American entitles a person to usurp public space for their own selfish ends, or "might makes right" (e.g. - people riding Harley Davidson motorcycles, the proliferation of obscene noise in giant pickup trucks and other amplified exhaust systems). I have been fighting this battle increasingly at work, and the unkind souls from whom I have asked for a quieter cubicle have moved me to a place smack dab in front of a frequently slamming door. I have been diagnosed by a clueless ENT doctor with "hyperacusis", an over sensitivity to noise. I really don't think so, perhaps overly civil is more like it.

  62. I was reminded of the joys of the Quiet Car on a recent train trip from Dublin to Galway.

    Although I'm in Ireland at least once a year, I hadn't made this journey in some time, and remembered it as a serene glide through green fields. Instead, this time I was plunged into the seventh circle of Dante's Inferno. I changed seats no fewer than four times trying to avoid three or four shrieking hen (bachelorette) parties, bellowing adolescent footballers and high-volume, non-stop mobile-phone callers - to no avail.

    Irish Rail has eliminated conductors on at least this line, so there was nobody in authority on the train to whom one could ask to help moderate this cacophony. There was only a beleaguered Eastern European woman pushing the food trolley, who simply shook her head and rolled her eyes in sympathy as she advised me which cars were somewhat quieter.

    In response to my letter suggesting that a Quiet Car would be a major quality-of-life improvement on its Dublin-to-Galway service, Irish Rail said it had instituted them already on some lines.

    I would advise travelers by rail in Ireland who want to preserve their sanity to bring noise-cancelling headphones with them at all times. Meanwhile, my Galway cousins told me there is an express bus to Dublin that is swift, efficient and never noisy. (Although I have been driven crazy by the cheesy piped-in pop music on long-distance buses in Ireland ... )

  63. In Japan all train cars are quiet cars. There is a separate compartment at the end of each car. If you want to use your cell or smoke - you go there. Honestly folks there is nowhere that I want to share either your smoke or your phone.

  64. Ah! The same must be true in China. I took the Jinghu from Shanghai to Beijing a few months ago (819 miles in about 5 hours, mind you) and not until this article did I realized how quiet the ride truly was. I had assumed it was due to the technology of the cars, wheels and rails. I failed to notice that it was also due to the low level of "noise" between the riders, even those who came in groups. This is not to say there must be "violators" from time-to-time. I recommend noise cancelling earphones for anyone traveling on public transportation. I have found them especially useful for air travel even helping diminish the painful cries of infants during ascent and descent.

  65. Excellent article! Quiet cars should be the default, and, if necessary, some cars can be designated for inveterate noisemakers. Come to think of it, we need not only quiet cars, but quiet bars where those of who enjoy conversation with our drinks can find refuge.

  66. Amtrak needs to do a better job of signing the quiet car. All to often people have no idea -- sometimes getting situated on the train is stressful and difficult, looking for seats and getting luggage situated -- and they often miss the sign on the door (which they can't see if the door is open) or the very discreet sign on the ceiling.

    It would be best for Amtrak to post stickers at each seat or on the windows of each seat that indicate it is the quiet car. I feel like half of the problems could be resolved simply by alerting people better.

  67. I agree. The Acela Express announces it practically at every station. "You are in the quiet car, conversations must be kept to a barely audible level, no cell phones." I think I travel too much, I know this by heart. The other Amtrak conductors could learn from the Acela.

  68. Amtrak conductors need to patrol the quiet car from time to time and take action when they see someone violating the rules without waiting for a complaint.. Confrontation is not a good thing, and the passengers should not have to be enforcers. On every ride in the quiet car from DC to New York there is at least one person yakking on a phone.

  69. You may be right but there are far too many who believe the rules do not apply to them. I once rode Amtrack where we had a nonstop talker who kept up a steady stream of loud spiel halfway across Missouri and Missouri is not a narrow state. Her seat mate finally moved across the aisle saying she was going to take a nap. She stretched out in the seats and covered herself, including her head, with a blanket. Non-stop talker simply stood up, walked over to the napper and continued talking.

  70. Still, nothing seems to dispel the awkward silence of elevator rides with strangers. If you can find an elevator with no ads, put someone else in there besides you and feel the quiet weirdness.

  71. Try traveling in the third world. Anybody who has a device capable of making noise has it on full volume, for hours at a time, even if they have headphones. The idea is to 'share' the 'music'.

    Quiet spaces are generally reserved for the wealthy- always have been. You think factories and tenement housing has ever been quiet?

  72. My Amtrak trip from Philadelphia last Friday did not have a quiet car. The train was full and our car noisy. Thank god the trip was less than 1 1/2 hours.

  73. Beautiful writing describing my sentiments exactly, what more can I ask for from my Sunday paper?

  74. BTW Ralph, the instructions for the Quiet Car are quite explicit, leaving no room for confusion at all. In addition to the clearly worded signs every three feet, the conductor gives a speech that leaves little room for doubt before the train ever leaves. I wonder: exactly which part of "nothing above (make that NOTHING) a whisper", all electronics the make sound turned down to silence, is remotely confusing? What's actually annoying is people who pretend not to get it, when they are simply being selfish.

    Best if those who can't grasp what's explicitly described in writing and by the conductor to sit somewhere else.

  75. I was a LIRR commuter for over 25 years, and really looked forward to the ride. Mornings, I would grab a cup of coffee, and with my copy of Newsday (sorry, Times, the tabloid format was so much easier to handle on the train, and back then Newsday was much better than the birdcage liner it has become). In the afternoon I would indulge in a refreshing beverage, and a good book. The occasional loud conversations were a brief annoyance at best. Then, the cell phone ended the quite. I never could understand why so many people feel the need to share the most intimate details of their prosaic lives. It is a shame that they cannot be alone with themselves.

  76. I've had that problem so many times in Dutch and German trains: pointing out the signs, asking people to be quiet, to take their conversations elsewhere, etc., but... some seem to have more rights than others.

  77. In an Amtrak "Quiet Car" between NYC and Baltimore, the screeching of the rails was so deafening that everyone in the car could have been singing at the top of their lungs and it wouldn't have made a difference.

  78. It's not just here. A couple of years ago, I rode in the quiet car of a shinkansen train that went from Kobe to Hiroshima, Japan. I kept my silence, as did nearly everyone else in the car (most of whom appeared to be Japanese commuters), but one tourist family destroyed all of the peace. The parents seemed oblivious to the stares and glares and to the requests to be quiet, and continued to let their children shout at one another and run up and down the aisles while they chatted loudly to each other. I'm certainly not ignorant to the difficulties of parenting young, strong-willed children, but if one has such children, one should do fellow travelers a courtesy and buy tickets in a standard car.

    It's everywhere, though. So many think that their rights to say/do whatever they olease in public trump the rights of all the rest of us to go about our lives peacefully.

  79. My new unfavorite noise assault is at the self-serve gas pump, where the customer is blasted with advertisements. So far, only one or two gasoline chains do this, so I can boycott them, but I fear the practice will spread. Noise for noise's sake is too easy, and noise for economic gain is even more so.

  80. Completely agree. I remember filling up in a howling windstorm, and to be further buffeted by adverts for giant cola slops and a rundown of sports scores felt completely intrusive and...just not necessary.

  81. How about the blaring televisions at the grocery check-out? :(

  82. A couple of years ago, the California assembly voted to raise the allowable decibles of car exhaust systems/mufflers. I was aghast at the decision.

  83. Loved your article. Those of us who like quiet are in the vast, vast minority. When I tell people I don't have the tv or radio on all day, they look at me in amazed disbelief.

    Why do people dislike their own company so much? It beats me


  84. Most days I'm home alone as I've retired. The silence is deafening. I love it.

  85. I enjoyed this article very much.

    The description of the "dreaded Amtrak type...who commences prattling on her cellphone the instant she sits down and doesn’t hang up until she gets to her stop" reminds me of my experiences at the gym. We have a fitness room where an entire wall offers floor to ceiling windows that look out over a lovely park, complete with pond and ducks! But most days everyone is staring at one of the television sets mounted on a wall or attached to their stationary bike or treadmill.

    Quiet is a good thing!

  86. Great writing, Tim. I guess the quiet car is a way through the Sartrean hell we live in, although your typing was a hell for some of the occupants of the car, kind of Jean-Paul getting a last laugh.

    We've become an ego-centric society, where everyone is self-important because they have that baccalaureate degree. Thus, on one trip in a rental car bus I took after landing, a woman felt free to yell out to her friend her visitation plans on her cell phone. Her announcement produced no useful knowledge for the other travelers on the bus.

    I really like the quiet car. Amtrak is great, and, over the recent years has become a far better way to travel than is flying. Down the Corridor to DC, it's Amtrak for me. And now I worked a way to actually get to Newport, RI on Amtrak so I don't have to deal with that rotten New Haven traffic (take the RI bus from the Kingston Station). So the quiet car makes this travel all that much better.

    As for tapping the keyboard, get a MacBook. I am typing here at home listening to WQXR and I assure you, it's quiet, save for the audio speakers. Hah, Jean-Paul has been bested in this argument! Well, he was smart; somehow he'd come up with a clever response.

  87. Thanks for writing this. I feel like a crazy person. My closest library, the Seattle Central Branch (a true architectural wonder) allows patrons to take and make cell phone calls in the library! When I lived in Baltimore, I had neighbors who kept their house closed up tight. Even in the best weather, never an open window. Inside, the TV blared day and night. Outside, the dog barked and barked and barked. When on a winter's night, we called and asked for something to be done with "Buddy", they brought him inside. And they never spoke to us again.

  88. Did Buddy stay inside? If so, congrats on a job well done and hope you enjoyed the silence.

  89. Yes, Yappies are everywhere. And I felt much better when I learned the name for them: Yappies. People who yap everywhere.

    My pet peeve is art museums, where I don't really want to learn about the previous day's basketball game. I wish I could remember the museum which has signs that listed "don't make a lot of noise" along with "don't touch." All museums should remind visitors of that.

    Thanks for the great article. I also loved the illustration.

  90. Who will help reclaim our libraries from loud patrons and staff?

  91. I am one of the quiet ones.

    I nominate you for for the right to wear the t-shirt that says:

    silence IS the teacher
    (please ponder that in silence)

  92. Love it, where can I buy a nicely made and perhaps artistically designed model, tee shirt, sweatshirt and if not available from one quiet one to another, let's make it happen! Quietly of course.....

  93. I have a 'stealth' device on my key chain that will turn off any TV anywhere. Found it online for about $10. Great for airports, doctor's offices, etc.

    Turning off unattended noise in public spaces is rude, I know. But you have to draw the line somewhere.

    Now if I could only find a solution to the loud talkers in the quiet car.

    Maybe a pillary car?

  94. Transbay buses to San Francisco are also a quiet zone. but every once in a while an alien alights with a cell phone conversation going on about nothing. after about three minutes, i start reading my newspaper aloud. a couple of questions from Dear Abby is usually enough to make the point.

  95. I hope airlines NEVER allow use of cell phones. Planes are bad enough with out some salesman or chick blathering for the whole flight. Extrapolate what you hear in the waiting areas into being trapped in a small tube with it for many hours.

  96. I was in the Quiet Car a few months ago and four women got on in a 4-seater area and proceeded to gab up a storm. I got up and politely asked them to comply with the QC rules. They looked mightily offended but huffily lowered their voices for about 30 minutes. Then they revved up the sound and I again reminded them that they were in the QC. They said "But we're sitting here!" (And???????) I repeated, "It's the Quiet Car."

    Now here's where it gets good. The Conductor came along about 10 minutes later and they complained about me, yes, COMPLAINED about me. The Conductor told them in a stentorian voice, "Ladies, you are WRONG and she is RIGHT. This is the Quiet Car. You can go to any other car on this train and dance on the seats and sing at the top of your lungs if you want, but this is the Quiet Car."


  97. So true MJ. I have had the same experience and the Conductor backs us up. Thank goodness.
    My best advice, nip it in the bud, if that does not work, find the Conductor.

  98. I believe this is exactly what HP above cringes about. I detect an enjoyment in playing the librarian here. SHHHHH !!

  99. I've had my share of confrontations with noisy passengers in the Quiet Car, and it is satisfying when the conductor takes your side, but they're not always this accommodating. Once, someone was typing on a laptop that made loud clicks. I pointed this out to the conductor, who said, "You can't stop someone from typing." But what about if the typing is NOISY?

    Another time, when I objected about a couple who were talking just loudly enough to be annoying (the constant pss-pss-pss), the conductor said, "This is the Quiet Car, not the Silent Car."

    It really depends on the conductor. Some enforce it vigorously, others don't seem to care.

    I think it should be a Silent Car! I've written to Amtrak about it, and their reply is that it should be a "library-like" atmosphere. Unfortunately, some people still talk in libraries.

    The real problem here is the "me" attitude, the disrespect for the commons. All it takes is one person to wreck things for everyone else: one noisy person in a quiet car, one smoker in a room of nonsmokers, one messy roommate in a household where everyone else keeps things clean. I, me, mine!

  100. PS: I loved this article until the end. Tim, why do you think the QC rules apply to everyone but you? This is why we have problems with the QC in the first place--everyone is King of the Universe.

  101. I have to say--while I love the sentiment of this article, there is not a small part of me that cringes at the intellectual elitism and the whole "in group" mentality that leaves out whoever can be perceived as the "dreaded Amtrak types."

    Case in point: I am an avid Amtrak Quiet Car patron. I am also a young, semi-stylish woman with blond hair. One time when I made my way to a seat in the quiet car, an older woman stopped me.

    "You do realize this is the quiet car?"

    "Yes, of course," I replied. I had made a special effort to get there, after all!

    "Well I just wanted to make sure you knew that there were no cell phone conversations. I just wanted to make sure."

    Preemptive action? No, just needless stereotyping of who belongs in the Quiet Car. And a reminder that some (most?) people don't think I fit into that mold.

  102. Next time simply remind them that the reason blondes speak slowly is so that the others will understand.

  103. Chill out. Be flattered that people notice you.

  104. I think I have met her. :-)

  105. I guess I'll be in the minority here. I made the mistake of getting on the quiet car once. While I was not the target of anyone's chastisement, certain passengers took weird satisfaction in taking to task anyone who dared make a sound. Honestly, typing too loud? Gee, your overly nasal breathing is bothering me, could you pipe down? Folks, if you live along the Northeast Corridor, you might want to get used to the facts of life that come along with living in one of the most densely populated areas of the country -- which includes some ambient noise level. Since I don't hate my fellow human beings, I don't mind the normal behavior they engage in -- which, yes, includes periodically making noise. But if I were a misanthrope, I think the last place I would go would be a crowded commuter train.

    But I will go further. I honestly think some people like the quiet car precisely so they can "hush" someone and feel morally superior. Look at the sanctimonious comments above by people filled with actual rage because their fellow citizens were talking -- yes, talking. When the noise police start complaining about loud typing, you know this isn't about noise anymore, it's about a neurotic obsession.

    But never fear. I will stay out of the quiet car.

  106. "But never fear. I will stay out of the quiet car."

    And those in the quiet car will thank you for it.

  107. Yes, typing sound can be too loud. It's all relative. If the surrounding is quiet, typing can definitely be too loud. So can be overly nasal breathing. Those who don't agree should stay out of quiet car.

    By the way, I think the author of this article shouldn't be so defensive. If the noise problem couldn't be resolved by changing to a different seat, he should just move out of the quiet car.

  108. It depends on the typewriter. I once had a Royal that drove the cat from the room and made me wish I could follow her. And this computer keyboard isn't exactly silent.

  109. As I sit on a peaceful, sunny Southern California morning in the hamlet of Corona Del Mar, enjoying this beautiful piece, I am rudely reminded of how close my neighbor's house is - about 6 feet away, each of us in our own 1950's era beach bungalow with no insulation for weather or noise.

    Not only does she speak on her iphone at the top of her voice, but she insists on using the speakerphone, so I am doomed to hear BOTH sides of her shouted conversations about nothing. This is even more annoying and harder to ignore.

    Would that she moved back to the McMansion she was foreclosed out of last year where ostensibly she could prattle on without harming anyone. Literally every other resident of CDM enjoys and respects the quiet zone.

    It isn't just public spaces anymore.

    I may rent a boat this afternoon to sit somewhere between here and Catalina Island just to hear nothing!

    Calgon, take me away.

  110. Like so many others, I loved this piece as I, too, always choose the quiet car. I remember when, not long after Amtrak introduced it, a young woman got on the train at one of the smaller stations,, sat down, and proceeded to talk on her phone, oblivious to the polite efforts of all of us to shush her. We were too polite. Finally, a young man seated rows and rows behind us got up and walked down to her seat, explained that the rest of us chose the car because it was a quiet car, and pointed to the sign. No, she exclaimed. That can't be. She then looked at the rest of us who were silently nodding, picked up her things, and literally ran away from us.

    We broke our promise of silence and started to laugh, as had she heard the stern -- and loud -- introductory lecture from the really scary enforcer, er, conductor that we had heard in New York -- she would never have sat down in the first place

  111. The Quiet Car is one of my favorite places of travel on the East Coast! The conductors have gotten really good at managing the noise expectation and shooshing people politely, it's delightful. "Think like you are in a library." Last week they also lowered the lights under the theory that people wanted to sleep, a bit strange as I counted 3 dozers amidst a car full of people working on their laptops. Thanks for the article. For all the rest, there are ear plugs.

  112. I loved this! I lament the fact that public spaces are so often full of loud imbecilic music. Why do we need to have loud radios on at the beach or at the YMCA swimming pool? Completely destroys the experience one was hoping for. Thanks for making me feel less like a curmudgeon.

  113. Very well written!

    If speech is silver, silence is golden.

  114. Rode the Philly to NYC stretch last week. Full train. No quiet car unfortunately. Had the ultimate non quiet car experience. Man on cell phone in front, movie watcher to the right, blaring music to the back. Man on cell phone gets belligerent - for 40 minutes yelling at his girlfriend that he is coming to NYC to get "him". Cursing and spitting the whole way. He had enough venom to destroy us all - when he moved thankfully to the bathroom we could still hear his screaming from the middle of the car. I had to move 4 cars before I felt safe to take a breath.

  115. This loudness factor got worse when folks stopped applauding (some call this "clapping") and began to yell and scream at sporting and concert events. I will start wearing a pin stating, "SHUT UP!"

  116. My pet peeves include the musicians who invade our space on the subways. I don't mind the musicians who sing or play instruments on the platforms. If you don't like the music, you can move. But in a subway car, you're trapped. I have an extreme, perhaps irrational, dislike of the sound of an accordion. I do not use headphones of any sort so it's impossible for me to block out that music. But even if I don't particularly mind the type of music being played, I feel assaulted as I have no choice but to listen.

  117. All too true! As the owner of a condo apt at the end of the hall just before the entrance lobby on the ground floor, practically every occupant of the entire 1200 unit building passes my door, most of them talking and laughing as if they were on the street in Times Square. Last New Year's Eve / News Years Day at 3am a couple by whom I had been awakened and from whom I begged for some quiet loudly protested that it was New Years Eve and so they had every right to continue to carouse before my door. They then proceeded to the concierge to register their complaint against me for trying to curtail their right to celebrate! GOOD GRIEF!

  118. Metro north trains into grand central have quiet cars, last car on the train in the morning and head car on the way out at night (guaranteeing you have to walk the full length of the train twice a day).

    I'm afraid the quiet car have given the big mouth a new refrain; this is not the quiet car.

  119. I am hard of hearing ... many times I am jealous of those who are more deaf than I am. I only wear my hearing aids when it's necessary to hear what people are saying or when I watch TV. I am fortunate to live in a quiet place but even so there are times when car alarms etc. invade the quiet. Dining out in restaurants is not much fun when you can't hear your companion's conversation. There's simply no need for raised voices if the restaurants would turn down the music and people were to speak in low voices. I won't even go there re cellphones. It's great that the train has a quiet car and I applaud those of you who insist that others respect the 'rules.' Why should those who speak the loudest rule? Someone said the article was "preachy" - I do not agree! Here's to a more quiet world. Yay to noise-cancelling earphones.

  120. The Quiet Car is an exercise in frustration and annoyance, because all it takes is one person to ruin the quietness. A headset, with charger, in a regular car, is much more relaxing.

  121. Good essay. Now let's address the problem of Harley riders who feel if their God given right to spread their version of loud Americana across the landscape. I live in the hills of an urban area and can hear them from one mile away.

  122. My number one reason for leaving N.J. for this place in the woods was NOISE. I just couldn't take the circling motorcycles, hovering helicopters, blaring neighbors and general cacophony any longer. Here I do have to put up with occasional loud loggers and barking dogs, but for the vast majority of the time it is QUIET. And there is the starry sky to boot!

    The visual counterpart to quiet is a dark sky. I remember driving around N.J. looking for a vantage point from which I could see the full moon. Now it shines brightly into my window on any clear night, as do millions of stars. This location is a trade-off to be sure, but worth it.

  123. Great article. It's about time that we band together, pick our strategic locations, and mount a fight against the narcissistic behavior that is running rampant in our society. Bravo to Amtrak for maintaining a bastion of courtesy and consideration.

  124. Beautiful article. Thank you for writing it. Has anyone noticed that in New York, the subway car is regarded by New Yorkers as an unofficial quiet zone? It is jarring when American tourists board and shout to each other up and down the car for the duration of their ride. No one else is talking. Do they not notice this? A subway car is a confined space. All riders of the NYC subway system: Please Speak Quietly. And one other note to my fellow New Yorkers: please turn the volume down when you listen to music with earbuds. I can hear everything....and you are no doubt destroying your hearing.

    I thank you.

  125. Too bad the same rules of etiquette don't apply to the NYC buses. I hope that cell phones never make their way onto the subways, the last bastion of silence.

  126. Diogenes Club!

  127. Okay, what about the sound levels of coming attractions at movie theaters?

  128. Thank you so much for writing this opinion piece! I ride Amtrak almost weekly, and I used to be a devotee too of the Quiet Car. I recently gave it up, though, as I found myself getting so angry at those who ignored the rules and disrupted the quiet. Every cell phone conversation or loud voicing perked up my ears and provoked my teeth gnashing. I had perfected my own chastising technique, "Excuse me, sir? Are you aware you are in the quiet car?" Yet over time, I found myself more disrupted and annoyed at others than enjoying peace and quiet. As a result, I found it more conducive to my peace of mind to go into the regular cars and just accept the noise. Knowing it was going to be noisy, I never found myself annoyed by the inconsideration of others. But I do miss the promise of the quiet car and the blissful peace it is supposed to offer.

  129. Peace and quiet while traveling - a gift! And too bad there's only one car... But it is important that corrections be administered civilly - and reinforced by the conductors. Some people do get off on righteous indignation - other s ( like me) build up anger before expressing their objections to bad behavior - and can sound exactly like an old librarian about to ban you from your local library for life ... I too regret the loss of library quiet - was in a local college library last week and found it impossible to concentrate because of the multiple loud conversations all around - many of which seemed to be designed to grab attention. I guess noise cancelling headphones might be a savior.

    I have considered ( not while in a quiet space) responding to the public half conversations of loud cell talkers as if I assumed that their comments, too loud to escape, must be addressed to me....

  130. I agree with Andy Dwyer that talking is only talking and generally should be tolerated, but I am often surprised at how loudly people speak here. They are right next to each other in trains, restaurants, and conferences, and someone 10 feet away can hear every word they are saying. A long time ago, the ability to modulate your voice used to be a sign of good up-bringing. Let's bring it back! Are we dealing with collective deafness? Some people's voices can feel like a physical aggression...

  131. I do think we are dealing with some serious hearing issues. Not surprising given the volume at which people listen to music/t.v./movies. I'd imagine ears don't react well to iPods and whatnot blaring music at full volume into a clueless teenager's head.

  132. Oh, how to disagree with the tone and stereotype of this article and yet revere the environment it holds dear?

    Protecting their solitude
    QC riders rail

  133. Keep in mind that noise is just another form of pollution that adversely affects our lives and which seems to increase inexorably, year by year just as size does: from soft drinks to cars, to homes, to infrastructure all of which increases all the other forms of pollution. We should all be thinking of ways we can promote more "quiet cars".

  134. After making the trip between D.C. and Boston on the quiet car several times over the past few years, I can state one fact. If the quiet is going to be interrupted by chatter on a cell phone it will occur in New York. Don't New Yorkers get it? You and your conversation are not that important to the overall safety of the world. Manhattanoid arrogance at its worst.

    For a preview of what a disaster cell phones on a plane would be ride in a business class car on Amtrak or Acela. Auditory hallucinations of a crowd speaking are probably more pleasant.

  135. Thank you; as one of your soldiers I wholeheartedly agree.

  136. I wish it were quieter everywhere!! Americans need to be more like Parisians, extremely quiet, and refined in manner and dress. Americans have become ever more crass in our public behavior and it is not good.

  137. What is it with restaurants? Why the music? Some friends and I dined in a restaurant in Manhattan not long ago where the volume was absolutely painful. The service was great and the food was good, but the music! Why do American restaurants need music? I'm asking seriously? What's up with that?

  138. The 7.16a.m MetroNorth train out of Grand Central to Poughkeepsie isn't designated a QC but on the whole people are considerate and if a passenger ignores the ambiance I am not the only one to have motioned for peace. The conductors often ask for thoughtful cellphone use.

    Once there was a young woman (accompanied by another young woman) who yakked incessantly. While doing so she also turned her back and stared out of the window. No she wasn't enjoying the beauties of the Hudson River vistas, she was studiously ignoring the increasingly agitated reactions from her fellow passengers. Her companion looked embarrassed but refused to intervene. When they got off at Peekskill the whole car cheered and whistled but unfortunately I don't think the women "got it".

    Then there was the woman who made a deafening call to her college-age child at 7.30a.m. near Spuyten Duyvil. She got her come-uppance though. "Oh sweetie did I wake you, I'm so sorry".

    Nice article and art work - many thanks.

  139. I really enjoyed reading this article. I am so sick and tired for people standing at the checkout line of grocery stores and talking in my ear about nothing of particular importance. One day I was standing in a very long checkout line when a particularly loud voice bellowed behind my head. I turned and looked at the person, hoping that my questioning look would at least make him realize he was speaking too loud. Nope, no such luck. Finally after many more minutes of this man shouting into my ear, I could no longer tolerate it and turned and screamed, for god's sake, the whole store can hear you! This embarrassed him so much, he turned off his phone and quietly waited in line. Everyone in front of us and behind him all smiled with relieft!

  140. Ugh! Another pet peeve of mine! Who wants to hear someone's banal conversation at top volume while waiting on line to pay for something?

  141. Thank you for this! Not just your comments about the quiet car, but about our society in general. I DREAD the day airlines allow passengers to use their cell phones in flight...NY to Berlin, trapped between people who simply canNOT shut up. When I hush talkers at the opera, or symphony concerts, I have even been told, "We're not talking THAT loud." As though my wish to listen to the music without their conversation were an outrageous desire.

  142. Quiet is hard to come by anywhere. Recently I had dinner in the old-fashioned dining room at the Parker House in Boston. At first I couldn't figure out what was so pleasantly different about the place. Then it came to me: it was quiet!!!

  143. Yes! Yes! The quiet car is the last bastion of civilization. It is the last refuge for those of us who have work that is not enhanced by chit-chat, or reading to catch up on. It's the last place you can take a nap while traveling.

    When I was a child, I'd ask my dad what he wanted for his birthday or Christmas, and he always said: "Peace and quiet!" Now I can appreciate what a gift that would be.

  144. I am so grateful for the Quiet Car on Amtrak, and always grateful for essays like this one that give voice to those who prefer quiet and contemplation and observing. Writing is our medium, and you have employed it well.

    Oh, how I wish the subway had quiet cars. Morning commutes before a certain hour seem to lull everyone on a packed train into silence and reading, but it doesn't last long.

    My biggest pet peeve on the subway, at any time of day, is people listening to music on their iPods with cheap Apple earbuds at top volume so that the noise is perfectly audible to someone half a car away. You think we can't hear every word of the lyrics of the song you are listening to? No, you just don't care that you are polluting the public space with noise.

    I also genuinely worry about my generation and hearing loss. I realized early that constant headphone listening at high volume would damage my hearing, and I have a ringing in my ears when I do find silence. But what about people who kept on blasting noise into their ears?

  145. I know this comment is a bit ridiculous, because I'm certainly as guilty of this as anyone. But I just have to acknowledge that the front page of the times from left to right includes the following:

    Israeli Strike Kills 11, Including Children,

    Caption: Warning, Following is a graphic image of a dead child.

    The Quiet Ones: Amtrak’s Quiet Car is our last bastion of civility and calm. And we will defend it.

    I'm not saying we're all bad people because minor things annoy us, but maybe the next time we ride a train or someone is typing too loud we could try to put things into perspective and be thankful for what we do have. Easier said than done, but today, I'm personally thankful for being alive and that no one close to me was killed.

  146. Why didn't the author realize that his own typing could possibly be annoying? Did he think he was any different from the cellphone barkers?

  147. Travelled in the quiet car with my seven year old son recently, mainly because it was a full train, and these were the only seats I could find that were next to each other. At least eight people stopped by to point out to us that it was the quiet car before we even sat down. "Do they think I can't read the signs?" he asked me. He watched a movie with headphones, read several books, played Scrabble with me, and whispered when he had to go to the bathroom or wanted to go get a snack. I made sure to make eye contact with each of our enforcers, but not one had the decency to tell him they had misjudged him.

  148. I quit the quiet car quickly. Much better to suffer the constant racket in the other cars than to have the silence of the quiet car pierced again and again. Maybe if Amtrak used bolder labeling and called it the "Silence Car" people would understand it was not a suggestion.

  149. I fail to understand the author's self-congratulatory attitude regarding his behavior in the Quiet Car. He knew that electronics weren't allowed, he used them anyway, and when he was asked to stop typing he refused to put the laptop away and simply moved to another area of the car where he would no doubt be bothering someone else.

    What is most offensive about being in public spaces these days is having to deal with adults who childishly refuse to follow simply rules of common courtesy and aren't embarrassed in the least that they need to be told how to behave.

    That the author thinks he accomplished something by not getting into a fight with another person while he was busy ignoring the rules in the Quiet Car just shows how clueless people have become.

  150. ..but electronics are, in fact, allowed on the Quiet Car.

  151. I was traveling first class on a train from Copenhagen to Aarus a few years ago. Except for the "train noise" it was nicely quiet - businessmen working, passengers reading. But this one passenger across the aisle became inebriated (from a bottle of vodka) and began bothering me and the two elderly ladies in the seat in front. He would occasionally leave, we would pass silent signs of relief. But, he would return to bother us some more with his loud talk which we all tried to ignore. I finally got up the gumption to complain to the conductor. To my incredible surprise, the train stopped mid-field (literally!!), two conductors in yellow vests came down the aisle, picked the man up between then and threw him off the train! i am not kidding! The two women in front of me turned and said, "Thank you" and the rest of the car erupted in brief applause. Now that kind of enforcement most certainly would keep the quiet car quiet!

  152. The illustration shows a person sleeping in the "quiet car". Is snoring a violation of the quiet terms?

    My noise pet peeve is the remote car lock that makes the car horn beep. It is jarring to be walking in a parking lot and have a car horn sound for no apparent reason. When I purchased my last car I asked to have the key fob set to disable the beep.

    And, why do people talk so much louder on a cell phone than they would in a face to face conversation?

  153. Simple reason for the preponderance of noise: it sells. How much of electronic communications traces back to old TV shows, the "soap operas" named because laundry/ dish soap makers were the sponsors? Once the ad industry realized people left the room during ads, in the pre-remote/ad blocker days, to get food, let out the dog, etc. they turned up the ad volume. Now those using the cell phones loudly are the descendants of those first viewers. None of us have that other public space to enter to find quiet.

    I would be very please to see our semi-public spaces like restaurants, libraries and museums have cell phone free spaces and actual quiet rooms and/or times for use. However as I learned on the Independent Les program shown recently here in Boston on PBS most bills already written by the lobbyists so grassroots political actions are limited: We who love quiet now have only one recourse to build momentum for change: quietly coordinated and organized-most likely online-boycotts of the places with the most noise, using blogs, perhaps logo wear and such to self-identify and quiet media friendly protests, as in "camera friendly" even when quiet.
    Anyone interested?

    For the record I have no interest financial or otherwise in the PBS program but it did clearly show that the only place to have any impact anymore is at the financial level since moral objections seem to be a thing of the past.

  154. Unlike Ms. Bernstein, I AM truly annoyed by the inconsiderate noises of others. I like to be alone with my thoughts, and I've found the solution at stores that carry hunting supplies or that cater to construction workers. High quality earplugs. They really do work!

  155. Any article with a David Foster Wallace shout-out is a friend of mine.

  156. Yup, noise is annoying. But if it's the sound of someone typing on a computer that's bothering you, stick earplugs in your ears and give your indignation and the world a break. You can carry some things too far.

  157. After many years on Metro North trains and NYC subways I only recently travelled by Amtrak for the first time and by accident found myself, to my delight, in The Quiet Car. Most of my 3.5 hour journey passed before two conversation partners sat down right behind me at Baltimore and talked much louder than they needed to, and a man sat down across from me and pulled out a cell into which he recounted his day in stentorian tone. New to the quiet car I was disappointed at how fragile the peace was, but another passenger came back and reminded them all they were in TQC. I was grateful. Being new to Amtrak I didn;t know whether anyone else cared but i do now, and I will always look for TQC on future Amtrak trips. And I will insist on the quiet, thank you. I hope this idea spreads, but not with great expectations.

  158. I appreciated this article very very much, the gratuitous comment about "ladies" not so much.

  159. In my experience, the single most important thing in keeping the Quiet Car quiet is the conductor.

    When the conductor makes an assertive announcement in the Quiet Car itself at the beginning of the trip, repeats it again at major points of embarkation, and pro-actively admonishes those talking, people generally behave appropriately or move.

    For those of us who use the Quiet Car frequently, should we try to find a way to lobby the railroad on this point?

  160. Aural life used to be far more civil; listen to the incessant beeping of trucks and buses (do they have to be THAT loud to warn the people standing right behind them), the whir of a leaf blower compared to the soft raking it replaced, the chain saws that seemingly every suburbanite male now needs to own and use, the whine of a scooter (getting very popular in college towns), the weird pinging that virtually every new appliance now makes (is the refrigerator door open?, is the laundry done?, is there a gas leak?), the screech of a jet-ski, the insanity of car alarms.

    I loved the column; glad to know that there are others who cherish silence.

  161. Very actual article.
    I personally use the public transportation only ( I have no car). So you could imagine my everyday experience of dealing with noise. The author is right we quiet ones are loosing. I think is the major reason for the pandemic is an american "individualistic-oriented" culture and kids upbringing went array.
    This is much of the lesser problem in the other countries where people are brought up to be much more socially aware hence "socially- oriented". This is the crux of the problem in MHO.
    Until this changed be ready like me and carry your earmuffs EVERYWHERE.

  162. My pet peeve is the constant loud drivel from TVs in airports. God how I wish smart airports would remove them. I enjoy reading when I travel, but the TV monitors are spaced so closely there are no seats far enough way for quiet (the Albuquerque airport is a refreshing exception). I do not watch TV at home and I resent being an airport captive who is bombarded with TV stupidity -- and that applies to the chatter they call "news."

  163. The solution is really simple: The people who value this service on Amtrak should be paying a higher fare for reserved seats in that car. Obviously it has value to them they should be willing to pay more for it.

  164. As usual, both cause and solution arise from the same box: technology. The solution -- not yet commercially available, or even technically feasible -- is to extend existing noise-cancellation technologies so they operate not just on headphones, but on entire rooms.

  165. Public (or neighbors') music is my bete noire. You have no escape; you can't turn it off or ignore it. It follows you around the house or down the street. Street musicians often have their receptacles out for money; I would happily pay them to stop playing while I got out of earshot. It's only when I can't escape the noise that I get annoyed. If somebody is yakking in a store, I can go to another department or floor.

    In college, I had a roommate who hung a mobile right over my bed in the room we shared. She liked owls, and this mobile had about seven little wooden owls dangling up there about a foot above my head. It did not touch me; it made no noise. It was securely fastened and presented no danger. I was so angry I practically destroyed it; I walked around muttering to myself. I thought about it constantly. I asked her to remove it (she refused). I realized then that it's the intrusion on one's territory that is so infuriating and not any innate characteristics of the intruding object or noise. We are accustomed to setting boundaries around ourselves excluding what we don't want to hear. For people (and often strangers yet!) to cross that boundary without permission and make us helpless to evict them is what is so maddening.

  166. Earplugs.

  167. "...people who are ignorant of the Quiet Car’s rules..."

    No, they're not ignorant. They know the rules. They just think the rules don't apply to them. In Hawai`i we have a saying for this personality type:

    "Ainokea, I do wat I like."

    They're the bane of human existence. In their full glory, we call them sociopaths. Usually, though, their deficiencies display in situations like the Quiet Car - they either consider themselves special or they're not thinking. In either case, their cognition is impaired. As was the author's.

  168. Thank you so much for bringing this up. There are quite a few people these days engaged in mindfulness/awareness meditation in our society, for a variety of reasons. The meditation practice allows noise, but is practiced in a quiet room. In other words, when the furnace starts up, it's just part of the environment we use to practice being mindful, however, cell phones, conversations, or any other activity other than practice in the room is excluded precisely so that we can really strengthen our practice of being present. Then, when out in the world, we can maintain some awareness in spite of the constant noise.

    And constant it is. And it does seem--with the earbuds, the phones, texting, boom cars, etc.--that we have a generation unable to be alone and still. Unable to be with themselves and be content. Are we really so afraid of what we'll find inside if we spend a few minutes quietly with ourselves? Those who never do this can't understand the relief quiet moments bring, and the sense of belonging to the world by being aware of it. They are missing something very important in life by filling up all space with distraction and need to not be alone with the beating of their hearts.

  169. I don't get it. The author is annoyed when a couple are talking. But he refuses to stop typing (and actually starts to argue) when his typing annoys someone else. Why is he exempt? He's just as bad as the couple. The quiet car should be just that: quiet.

  170. I appreciate the concept of the quiet car. Perhaps if we lived in a more civil society it wouldn't be necessary. Unfortunately, we live in a time when people are fantastically inconsiderate. This is not just on the train, but in the neighborhood (barking dogs, heavy smoking outdoor campfires,) on the roads (not just rage but all kinds of shenanigans), pretty much everywhere.

  171. This from the now, sadly, retired Philip Roth’s great novel “Operation Shylock”:

    “’For each and every moment that a person remains silent, he earns a reward too great to be conceived of by any created being.’ This is the Vilna Gaon quoting from the Midrash.”

    One commenter queries, “Why do people dislike their own company so much?” It’s not so much a question of dislike as fear. People are afraid of their own company, afraid that face to face with themselves, they will see that there is no there there; that left alone with their own thoughts, they will appallingly find that they have none.