Saturday, March 21, 2009

ASBOs for all

Is conversation soon to be considered antisocial behaviour, I found myself wondering yesterday. Is it, perhaps, already? Now, I like peace and quiet as much as the next person - more, in fact, I would hazard a guess. But that preference doesn't extend to thinking I have a right to peace and quiet wherever I go.

Have you noticed the proliferation of signs on trains - and now in the scrolling announcements too - reminding you to be 'considerate'? This includes not having your ipod turned up too loud, not eating smelly food (that one's on the tube, admittedly - and I did always opine, in the days of non-smoking carriages, that there should also be egg sandwich free carriages too) and not holding loud mobile phone conversations.

Now I have never really been able to understand why mobile phone conversations are considered more irritating that face to face ones. OK, it might be because it's frustrating only hearing one side of the conversation, but that's not really a legitimate complaint, is it. I suspect the idea set in in the early days of mobile phones when a. reception was patchy and people tended to have to shout and b. the only people who had mobile phones were the sort of flash gits who would have been extremely annoying anyway. My contention is that our current disgruntlement with people going hello, I'm on the train, is a hangover from that rather than having any basis in current experience.

On occasion in the past when fellow passengers have tried to make me complicit in their eye-rolling and tutting about people making phone calls, I've asked why it's considered worse than having an ordinary conversation, just like the one that we are having now, and often they haven't really been able to give a reason. But that just makes them more annoyed of course.

However, since yesterday I've concluded that this whole issue is having a sinister knock-on effect. I was on the train, and soneone was on the phone which, to be honest, I hadn't even noticed, when another passenger started berating them for having their conversation 'on a public train'. The caller remonstrated, and I joined in, saying, ' yes, what's wrong with having a conversation?' The phone call continued in a whisper and it was then that I realised that everyone else was sitting in silence. A carriage that was pretty much full, and no one dared speak.

Conversation itself has by extension come to be seen as an unacceptable infringement of other people's peaceful journey experience. Being sociable is now antisocial.

8 comments:

Halfie said...

Perhaps trains (and tracks) are too quiet now. This wouldn't have happened in the "clickety click, clickety click" pre-continuous welded track days. But, of course, then there were no mobile phones... (I wonder what irritated passengers 40 or 30 years ago?)

Red Dragon Man said...

I think you'll find most people (myself included), think that mobile phone conversations are generally still conducted at a minimum volume of a low shout. A face to face conversation in the seat across the aisle can normally be tuned out quite easily.
The subdued bellow of some prat assuring his nearest and dearest that he is indeed on the same train that he's caught home every evening for the last twenty years is far less easy to tune out. Especially when there are 20 such prats per carraige.
All IMHO of course :)

Red Dragon Man said...

.....the twenty or so prats may, of course, have been in a carriage instead :)

Martin said...

I think the 20 such parats should better have been in a carraige - some sort of barbaric celtic imprisonment I presume.

Amy said...

The Cambridge University Library used to ban all mobile phones and I have been remonstrated for merely holding one in my hand to text someone. Now they have finally seen sense and removed the ban as long as the phone is on silent and conversations are held in the courtyards- libraries being one place where conversation should be kept to a minimum.

Sarah said...

Quite so - my very thought was 'It's a train, not a library'! Although ironically according to an article at the weekend (pretty sure it was in the Observer) public libraries are now becoming very noisy places, as local authorities try to get down with the kidz, and libraries are getting their funding cut for being too 'book-focused'.

Steve Edwards said...

well well, perhaps it's all changed - but I thought there were "noisy" carriages and "quiet" ones. The latter being for the Neo-Silent people who prefer to nod off into the lap of their neighbour, the former for those noisy but busy people, who being banned from using their phone in their cars, have capitulated to the governments demands and now travel by public transport!!

Sarah said...

No, this wasn't one of those trains, just an ordinary branch line commuter one.

I always try to avoid the quiet coaches, because they're no quieter, but so much more tense!