Philadelphia Metropolis


Guess Where I Am

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By Roz Warren

The other day when I was on the SEPTA R5 everyone was on the phone but me. The train car was filled with the cacophony of blather. All my fellow passengers were talking at once, each one-sided conversation more insipid than the last. Some typical remarks:

"I'm on the train!"

"The second apartment we saw was even smaller, but I loved the kitchen."

"I'm on the train!"

"You found the document? Great! Now make five copies and give them to Mark."

"I just got on the train!"

"The podiatrist was out of the office, but when the nurse saw my bunion, she..."

 "I'm on the train!"

Okay. So you're on the train. Now, can you possibly shut up about it for two seconds?

There wasn't a quiet car or I would have been on it, I assure you. All the cars were noisy cars and the blather was inescapable. All I wanted was to relax, read the Inquirer and watch the world go by, in peace and quiet.

Good luck with that.

"The cat threw up -- again? Did it have that weird green stuff in it?"

There was a sign at the front of the car asking people to be considerate of others by keeping their conversations low, but everyone was too engrossed in cellular chit chat to pay attention to it. Let's face it: consideration for others goes right out the window when people pick up their cell.

I've always loved the R5. I enjoy zipping past Main Line streets and suburban backyards. I love the ease and convenience of getting into the city by train instead of getting stuck on the Schuylkill Expressway. I've been taking SEPTA since I moved here two decades ago - before there were cell phones.  Those were the days when you could enjoy a quiet ride. Maybe even a pleasant chat with a fellow passenger. Now what do we get?

"The census came? Did you throw it out?"

"I'm on the train!"

"I'm on the way home. No, I didn't forget..."

Is it really necessary for everybody to be this connected to everybody else? What if everyone on your speed dial didn't know that right now -- at this very moment -- you're on the train? I'm guessing they could cope.

"You can go right to hell, Henry! I don't have to put up with your bullshit! "

How I long for a little peace and quiet.

Instead, I've got an iPod with noise-canceling headphones. When the cell phone cacophony becomes unbearable, I can slip them on and listen to something more interesting than "I'm on the train!"

Nowadays, you're either ignoring everybody around you by talking on your cell or ignoring everybody around you by vanishing into your own private iPod zone.

Soon, there will be no possibility of connecting with anyone. We'll all be living in our own personal electronic bubbles.

So go ahead cell phoners-- enjoy yourself! Blather away. Don't stop talking for a moment. Ever. Putting down your phone and actually acknowledging your fellow human beings, maybe even getting into an actual conversation with the person sitting beside you, would be completely out of the question.

Anyway what would you say? They already know you're on the train.

All I know if that if I had a time machine, I'd go back, find the person who invented the cell phone and strangle him.

Meantime, if you need to reach me, I'M ON THE TRAIN.


Roz Warren is a writer who takes the train to and from her home in Bala Cwynyd.

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