AT&T and Verizon have a lot to answer for.
The good news is that cell phones give people the freedom to talk to one another wherever they are whenever they wish. Unfortunately, that's also the bad news because they have also given people the freedom to be rude and ignorant - and all apparently without even being aware of it.
Our train ride from New York to Rutland was uneventful but for the grumbling presence of several people in our car all yelling into their mobile phones at ever increasing volume levels. It was almost as if they didn't realize the phone's technology actually means they don't have to yell for their distant friends to hear them.
It all started with the young, heavyset woman directly behind us. In one of those relentlessly cheery and artificial tones that so many American salespeople master, she called someone in her company to let them know the bad news. "We lost SONY," she eventually got around to telling them with a little less chirp than the rest of her conversation.
She went on to explain - again, with the volume set at 11 - that so-and-so didn't like them, and someone else wanted them but lost their budget. And about 10 more minutes of blah blah blah. But even to someone like me who did not know the details of her business, there was no mistaking the fact that she had taken a kick in the guts and was dealing with it by being chirpy and loud.
It must never have occurred to her that the rest of us in the train did not view the car we were riding in as her office away from the home office. Nor did it seem to occur to her that sharing confidential business information with a train full of strangers might not be the smartest thing to do. And it certainly must not have occurred to her that all of us were thinking of her as the woman who lost SONY.
Right behind her was a guy with a wireless bluetooth headset hanging off his ear. He was short and looked a lot like an extra running around the headquarters in the background in an episode of 24. Because the woman who lost SONY was raising the decibels in front of him, he had to speak even louder as he conducted his business on the train.
It was starting to sound a bit loud in the car but really ratcheted when a third cell phoner joined the party - and he, of course, had to speak even louder than the other two. Who in turn raised their volume to deal with what I suspect they considered the loud, rude people behind them.
The best part of the whole thing was when the train moved into areas where the signal was lost, and each of them desperately started saying, "Hello? Hello? Can you hear me? I think I'm losing you. If you can hear me, I'll call soon when I get a signal ..." etc etc etc.
They all got off in Albany, which meant the last two hours of the trip were mercifully quiet and peaceful. Well, that is until this old guy who was the only other person remaining in our car decided we would be interested in his life story and what he was doing in Rutland this weekend.
I don't know how to be rude to people who strike up these sorts of conversations, but it did occur to me that taking a call on my mobile right then might not be such a bad idea.
PS = Don't ask me why but Google's blogger site does not permit ampersands in a post label, so AT&T becomes AT+T. Odd.