A passenger got on my train this evening and unleashed a whole new and unexpected dimension of horror on us all.* He had a phone, with earphones (which he unplugged so we could all share in the experience) which played videos. Or maybe live TV, I didn’t check. Not 30 second video clips – the rest of our journey was accompanied by a soundtrack of bad dialogue, background music, a prolonged car-chase and some tinny explosions. Man it was annoying. It was so annoying even all the people hardwired into their iPods were looking round and tutting. He just sat there oblivious, frowning at the tiny screen, not even looking as though he were enjoying it much.
This was, of course, the quiet coach. Now I’m not really in favour of the concept of a quiet coach and this precisely illustrates the reason why. The people who run SouthWest Trains get lots of bonus points and favourable press coverage by announcing they have quiet coaches in their trains. They then print up a few hundred stickers, stick them in the window in some of its carriages, and leave it at that. Do they send guards round to check if those coaches are actually quiet? They do not. They’re not even checking tickets on every trip, let alone compliance with the latest gimmicky policy decision. So who’s supposed to tell this guy to turn his horrid mobile noise-making device off, or to move, or at least to put his head phones in? The passengers are. And were we going to? Well you tell me this: has any one of you reading this ever seen or heard or even heard of someone being told to shut up in a quiet coach?
Why don’t we? Well partly because we’ve all been guilty ourselves of sitting in the quiet coach chatting away on our phones before realising what we’ve done (SWT don’t help by randomly moving the coach around the train so you can’t guarantee you will or won’t be on it). And partly because what are you then going to do if the person in question refuses? The passengers don’t even listen to the guards. And so you sit there and suffer in silence, and so does everybody else.
Maybe that’s why it’s called the quiet coach?
*That’s horror in the usual sense of this blog, i.e. mild annoyance, and not horror in the old-fashioned stick-in-the-mud accurate sense of bombings, death, disease and dismemberment, naturally.