Last Saturday, I traveled by train on the Amtrak Acela to Philadelphia to visit my daughter and her family. When train 2208 arrived at the BWI station, I chose to sit in the quiet car. This space is designated for folks who don’t want to listen to people talking or loud cell-phone conversations.
When I am alone, I prefer the lack of noise for the hour plus journey. I selected a seat next to man who was not happy to see me occupy the space next to him, which he had preoccupied with newspapers and other personal gear. During the trip, I could sense him moving as far from me as possible. I felt like an intruder.
Back to the silence of the quiet car, I was solitary with my own fears and anxieties. Lately, I am afraid of almost everything, and routine tasks and appointments assume ominous tones. I guess this phenomenon is part of my current mild depression which I fear will escalate.
When I am traveling solo, hearing the sounds of conversations and even the laughter of children increases my loneliness-like a party to which I am not invited. Only a few people dare to raise their voices loud enough to be audible and this I can tolerate.
Technology has made travel quieter in general. Cell phones define the favored means of communication, texting leading the non-verbal exchanges. Each person is participating in silent talk on their hand-held devices.
Actually, I used to enjoy the spontaneous chatter that evolved out of the proximity of planes and trains. But, no more do strangers engage in exchanging information and repartee just because they share the same space. Those days are gone, never to be resurrected, and I miss that allure of travel. Maybe I am just old and behind the times of rampant technology.
On the return trip, I sat in a regular train car and was not too bothered by the noise around me, as it was mostly muted. I will continue to travel by train and enjoy the quiet car when I find it. A more desirable accommodation would be to learn how to be around other people and less distracted and disturbed by their talk.