Foul-mouthed old ladies…

Or, why public transport will never be popular.

Although in fact the only reason I’m writing this is because the train was crowded so I had no choice about where to sit, so it *is* popular.

The story: I’m travelling back from Norwich to Cambridge, and sit in the only available seat, opposite two sweet looking little old ladies. Who talk *constantly* on the 1:20 h journey back. And I do mean it… its as if they were afraid of silence, or of the possibility of thought… and (just like the yoof of today are supposed to) most sentences had “bloody” in them. They talked about… the bankruptcy (literally) of some relatives; the pigs we passed; the shops; going to buy a paper; an endless stream of trivia.

Anyway, the point is that faced with a choice between that and a nice car journey with what you want to listen to on the CD, only people with no choice, or who want to do kakuro, are going choose public transport.

On the plus side, unlike the hyper-efficient Japanese rail network, the trains were precisely on time :-)

Comments

  1. #1 Left_Wing_Fox
    2006/08/16

    I was 24 before I went for my learning permit. I didn’t actually get my drivers license until I was almost 27. So I’ve dealt with a lot of mass transit.

    Yeah, hypertalkative neighbours on the bus are a common problem. It’s even worse when they decide they should be talking with you. Like the guy who collected sewing machines, and had sewn the leather jacket he was wearing from old purses. Then the challenge is to seem suitably impressed by it without cracking up. Or the woman with the stinky sandwiches and the tackle-box full of medication. You can guess which of the two will be the topic for conversation for the next few hours.

  2. #2 James Annan
    2006/08/16

    One big benefit of the hyper-efficient Japanese trains is that even when people are nattering away (which is rare), I can’t understand and therefore am not distracted by their chatter :-)

    Actually they are almost all far too polite to make any noise anyway…and they tend to leave seats free beside the big hulking scary gaijin :-)

  3. #3 llewelly
    2006/08/17

    Junior-thing: “Parent-thing, why did humans go extinct?”
    Parent-thing: “Well, they couldn’t bear to ride public transit with foul-mouthed old ladies, so they emitted waaay more CO2 than was necessary. The climate warmed up so rapidly they couldn’t grow any of the crops they’d depended on for 1000s of years, and they starved to death.”

    Junior-thing: “That’s bloody stupid …”

    (no, I don’t really think AGW is likely to render us extinct. Pardon my abuse of comedic license.)

    I try to take a book or two and some paper, and read and do some exercises. Usually it’s a software dev book (my profession), but lately I’ve been taking my concrete mathematics text. This distracts me enough that I can pretty much ignore people talking to each other, and people are less likely to talk to me because they think I’m college student studying real hard. The concrete mathematics text is particularly effective because it looks like a hard math book (it’s black, with a big sigma engraved in concrete on the cover).

    The other obvious suggestion would be an ipod. Or a laptop and some headphones.

  4. #4 Eli Rabett
    2006/08/17

    Wear inappropriate clothing and talk loudly to yourself. It usual chases the old ladies off.

  5. #5 Adam
    2006/08/17

    Being a regular user of public transport for many years, I now take ear plugs with me wherever I go. It doesn’t block the noise out completely, but it makes it easier to mentally tune out and read your book, instead.

    Otherwise you could have joined in and started explaining global warming to them. :)

    One hint though, never tell people the answers to their crossword puzzles!

  6. #6 Carl Christensen
    2006/08/17

    It’s not the old ladies, but I’ve been shocked by the behavior I’ve seen in Britain from kids aged 10-17(“hoodies”, “chavs” and “other”); not to mention the yobs & yobettes. Maybe it’s because I’m from a place that if you acted like they do, you’d get shot!

  7. #7 Hank Roberts
    2006/08/18

    I have earplugs clipped to my shirt all the time and use them a lot. If I’d started using them 40 years earlier, I probably wouldn’t need them so much now. Youngsters, take heed.

    As it is, they help a lot keeping the tinnitus under control. One beep or bang sound or any prolonged whine or whistle can start my ears ringing for hours.

    And people will assume I can’t hear them if I ignore them, which is also a benefit.

  8. #8 Steinn Sigurdsson
    2006/08/18

    You need an iPod.

    [A fortune telling one? -W]

  9. #9 Nosmo
    2006/08/22

    Carl,
    What’s a yob?
    Nosmo

  10. #10 Carl Christensen
    2006/08/23

    I didn’t know what a “yob” was either until I moved to Britain:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yobbo

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