Service of Keep it Down: Use Your Indoor Voice Please

June 27th, 2024

Categories: Correction, Rail Travel, Travel

There are 58 posts in the travel category of this blog. I may have covered this aspect previously but not recently.

I’m no stranger to traveling on Metro-North. For some 25 years I took the train upstate every Friday and for 15 back to the city as well. There were bad trips such as the one I described in 2015 in “Service of No News is Not Good News.” It starts, “In the time it took us to get home on the 7:06 [pm] from upstate NY Sunday night, [normally 2 hours], we could have been in London.” You get the gist.

I love traveling on trains, both here and in Europe however, I suffered one of the worst rides last Sunday evening.

The woman behind me did not take a breath. She screamed into her phone for 1.7 hours. Her voice was raspy and irritating. She mostly spoke in an indecipherable foreign language sprinkled with English and on occasion, a shriek of laughter. I wondered if the person on the other end had left the room because the woman literally didn’t stop talking the whole time.

And I didn’t have my earbuds with me.

Something told me to tolerate the intrusion as awful as it was. I couldn’t see her: was she fierce? Unhinged? You ask, “why didn’t you move?” The train was full.

The conductor might have suggested she take it down a notch had he noticed, but either he didn’t or he wouldn’t. Mary was an old school conductor on the 5:19 upstate out of Grand Central on Friday nights for years. She counseled “her passengers” not to reprimand another passenger. That was her job, she said. I heard her tell a commuter babbling incessantly into her phone to lower her voice. The next time she walked by, when nothing had changed, she asked her to hang up. Mary retired years ago.

What would you have done in my spot? Have other passengers ruined a trip for you?

15 Responses to “Service of Keep it Down: Use Your Indoor Voice Please”

  1. EAM Said:

    I have experienced this a few times on the NJT train. People who speak on speakerphone are obnoxious and I’ve asked people to people to take it off. I was in a quiet car recently and had a very quiet exchange and was reprimanded by another passenger who told me it was a “quiet car” that doesn’t mean silent car. In addition, I’ve asked co-workers to keep their voices down on Zoom calls, I don’t think people realize how intrusive they are to fellow co-workers. There are private rooms for those discussions.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    There was no option for a quiet car on the train I was on. How great would that be!

    When I took the train weekly, my phone call conversations amounted to “Hi, Homer, I’m on the 5:19.” And when friends want to speak with me when I’m on a train I won’t. Even if I whisper it’s annoying to others.

  3. TC Said:


  4. Francine Ryan Said:

    Francine on Facebook: The conductor needed to manage her. I would have insisted he do that.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You are right. And had I not been so close to her I would have. I am fearful of poking a hornet’s nest in a situation where I have no exit strategy.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    And some are angry and dangerous. I find that unless I know my opponent, the best strategy is to bite my lip.

    I wrote here about a nosy fellow passenger who accused me of trying to get away with not paying. The train I took involved a change. The first conductor was distracted, and he clicked both the first and second rides on my ticket. Then he initialed the mistake. This happened sometimes. The conductor on the second train had seen this before and he turned to the nosy passenger and said, “I believe her.” I didn’t say a word.

  7. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: Wise to be fearful in such a situation

    Like on most mass transit, especially these days, I find ticket takers won’t get involved in “sticky situations.” On one hand, I get why–not worth the risk, not trained for it, etc. But can be so annoying to passengers.

    I experienced similar thing on LIRR Sunday. Young man had earphones in, but was rapping loudly. I glanced over a few times menacingly, but that did nothing. Ticket taker came by and rapping rider had no ticket, no cash, no ID and credit card was rejected. What a surprise! He should have been put off the train at the next stop, but ticket agent didn’t want to engage. Plus next stop was his intended destination. What a world!

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Fare beaters cost the NYC transit $690 million last year. Clearly, those whose job it is to oversee payment such as bus drivers and transit police in subways don’t want to get involved and as you note, can you blame them?

    I’ve seen other passengers pay for scofflaws such as the one you describe and the person getting the freebie doesn’t even thank. In your example, the person makes himself annoying to others and probably doesn’t have a clue or doesn’t care.

  9. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: He had the nerve to actually argue with the ticket taker. It was surreal.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    I so wish I had that kind of nerve.

    I realize it sounds crazy.

  11. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: Having nerve can be a good thing, but in that instance it was misplaced. He knew he had no ticket, no money, no ID–he was full of s–t and simply trying to get over. Awful behavior.

  12. Lucrezia Said:

    A similar incident took place in a restaurant when a drunken dame’s loud and shrill voice presided over a crowded room. No waiter/waitress or Maitre D shut her down. We eventually left the premises with ears ringing and ruined evening. We reasoned that this must be a very good customer. Question is, does that warrant tolerance of such behavior? We returned recently, and “Madame” was missing. Lucky she stayed home since we were ready to file a bitter complaint!

  13. Deb Wright Said:

    I might have tried to hail the conductor if he or she was available. However, these days, people are afraid of antagonizing someone who clearly is not normal, or, as the saying goes, a few tacos short of a platter. I remember during the height of Covid, I was at a Target store. Masks were mandatory. There were two young women who refused to comply. The young manager of the store was clearly afraid of them. They did look like tough customers. I was in an aisle as they were cruising around. I looked pointedly at them (over my mask) and they just laughed. Crime has made us afraid to confront fellow passengers for fear that they will become violent. Sad comment on our society…

  14. Jeanne Byington Said:


    1,000 years ago NYTimes food critic Mimi Sheraton gave a restaurant a tiny number of stars—maybe 2. She reported: Food great. Ambiance great. Service great. But maitre D didn’t shut down a couple next to her having a knock down screaming match. She thought he should have asked them to leave. Tough situation.

  15. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Early Covid I had to ask a woman to back up. She was hovering over me in line at a grocery store in spite of staff requests, signs and sticky footprints on the floor six feet apart. She was middle aged. And she looked at me as though I was crazy! If she hadn’t moved I might have left rather than make a fuss. Confrontation these days is made trickier because so much is politics related.

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