Sydney’s bizarre experiment in commuter etiquette
Sshhh! Would you mind keeping it down that infernal tappity-tap on your keyboards, please? As for the noisesome flapping of your eyelids - think I wouldn’t notice - be so kind as to observe that this is a Quiet Website and you will answer to us…
Never mind the screaming kids in your nearest McMall and all the sundry squawking they have inspired among; it’s time to bid a (very tight-lipped) welcome to ... the Quiet Carriage Nazi.
CityRail recently created the Quiet Carriage for those who like to travel on Sydney trains with a little less wear on the eardrums. It’s a simple and pleasant idea – in the rear carriage, talking on a mobile phone, playing music and conducting loud conversations are frowned upon and the concept has been popular, CityRail says.
Indeed, during the initial trial, nearly 90 per cent of customers said travelling in Quiet Carriages had improved their overall travel experience. Further, 98 per cent indicated they intended to continue using Quiet Carriages.
But there is always someone wanting to sink their digits firmly into the rule of thumb.
On a trip to Sydney the other day, two elderly ladies sat together, murmuring quietly as two elderly ladies sitting together would. Luckily, Quiet Carriage Nazi was on hand to spring into action and point out the heinous nature of their ways.
“Do you realise this is a Quiet Carriage yada yada ... “ QCN firmly reminded them. No, sorry, said the stunned and demonised pair, who promptly hid their embarrassment behind books and dared themselves the occasional whisper for the rest of the journey.
“No, I don’t think that is right,” pointed out an anarchist nearby. “Quiet talk is fine – it’s loud conversations that are not allowed.”
QCN was having none of it. She rode this train and this carriage every day, we were (loudly) informed, which clearly made her some kind of carriage president whose inauguration we had all somehow missed.
“Well, I think you’re very rude,” said the anarchist.
“Well, I think you’re very rude,” QCN retorted.
The rest of us shrank; it was clearly heading for Sudoku puzzles at 10 paces ... They went back and forth a little longer, completely shattering the peace and calm of the Quiet Carriage. The only thing louder than them was the clanging of the irony alarm.
QCN eventually settled for a (quiet) harrumph, leaving the rest of us stewing in a rather humid silence and wondering what mutterings we could manage before the powers that be again empowered themselves.
I needed a change of channel at this point and put on my iPod, but even there, no relief. Up shuffled Curtis Mayfield’s Move On Up, a verse of which begins: “Bite your lip, and take a trip ... “ Even long-deceased soul icons were getting in on this act.
A mate who takes the same route reckons CityRail is messing with our minds, conducting some giant social experiment complete with hidden cameras and such. He works for Four Corners; he should know a bit about conspiracy theories.
Like prohibition, the Quiet Carriage concept is unenforceable, and even the CityRail website admits the policy is “customer regulated”. They are not about to employ extra staff to walk up and down with index fingers pressed to lips – and this works perfectly for those folks who must oversee every facet of their existence and everyone else’s.
They have taken it, bravely, upon themselves to be sole arbiters of who is suffering from a decibelity and who is not. Shush-ters are indeed doing it for themselves.
I dreamed last night that QCN recognised me on the train, somehow deduced I had written this article and harangued me all the way to Central. It won’t surprise you to know that I never heard the bloody end of it.
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