Making Some Noise On the Amtrak Quiet Car
It’s not often that a news story moves me to stand up at my desk and applaud, but the tale of Lakeysha Beard inspired a slow-clap ovation this week. In case you missed it, Beard was doing something that drives almost every train commuter crazy—she was talking loudly on her cell phone. (If you can’t relate to this, then you either don’t ride public transportation or you’re the one yapping.)
Beard took obnoxiousness to a new level, running her mouth non-stop for 16 hours. Worse yet, she was sitting in an Amtrak quiet car, a glorious innovation inspired by train riders along the Philly/D.C. corridor who were fed up with noise pollution. After what must have felt like Guantanamo-style torture, a fellow passenger confronted Beard about the volume of her phone calls. That’s when the woman became “aggressive,” according to news reports. Beard was escorted off the train by police and charged with disorderly conduct. For those of you keeping score: Civility, 1; Irritating Cell-phone Abusers, approximately 900 billion and counting.
We’ve all had encounters with nightmare passengers, but Beard might win the title of all-time worst. I once sat next to a woman on a SEPTA bus who looked and sounded like Snoop from The Wire. The high-volume phone conversation with her boo went something like this, minus the slew of f-bombs: “I can’t wait to see you, where are we gonna get our drink on, don’t tell me how to raise my kids, so you called to patronize me, I’m hanging up.” Have you seen The Wire? There was no way in hell I was going to ask her to keep it down. Or offer any parenting advice. Or happy hour recommendations. But compared to Beard and the marathon chatfest she inflicted upon her seatmates, my run-in with Snoop was more like riding with Miss Daisy.
Perhaps my favorite part of this saga is that Beard reportedly felt “disrespected” by the incident. Somehow, the word “disrespect” has become shorthand for excusing one’s bad behavior (and sometimes it’s just code for “You’ve insulted me, so now I’m going to whoop your ass”). Maybe it’s something that’s filtered into our culture through sports, where athletes often cite disrespect as a reason for taking a swing at another player and getting ejected from games. Or maybe it’s from reality TV, where many fist-fights and hair-pullings are preceded by claims of disrespect (as well as Jell-O shots, accusations of cheating, and/or fist-pumping).
When it comes to true disrespect and a lack of everyday courtesy, cell-phone addicts—especially the loud ones—are among the worst offenders. Anyone who rides trains regularly should keep the video of Beard’s arrest bookmarked on their smartphones, so the next time there’s some blowhard chatting away, you can simply cue it up as a warning. No disrespect meant, of course. And if my buddy Snoop is the one doing the talking, I’d recommend finding a new seat.