Quiet please

FI-Joe-PisaniThe other day a very important man, or at least a man who wanted to let the rest of us think he was a very important man, was yelling into his cell phone aboard the 5:23 out of Manhattan.

With the number of clients he was calling, I thought he was a stock broker or an insurance salesman or political pollster. Whatever he was, he was someone who found it necessary to conduct business at a high volume, and I can still remember the very vital work being done.

“HI ROB, KENT HERE. I JUST GOT BACK FROM ST. BART’S … YEAH. I WAS THERE FOR TWO WEEKS, GREAT! GREAT! GREAT! SURE, MAYBE IT’S SOMETHING WE CAN FIX YOU UP WITH. NOW, ABOUT THOSE NON-CONVERTIBLE DEBENTURES!”

Deliver us from evil. Is there anything more annoying than someone doing business on the cell phone right next to you? Why yes, there is. It’s teenagers talking about their love lives in explicit X-rated terms I didn’t learn about until I was 31 and which I won’t repeat since this is a family newspaper.

I’m praying that the people who run the railroad, and who just raised my monthly fare 5%, get control of this situation. They obviously can’t get the trains to run on time, so this is the least they can do.

In addition, the feds should learn from this debacle and not allow cell phone conversations aboard flights. Whoever is responsible for that decision — the FAA, the DOT, the CIA, or the ASPCA — should take heed. Listening to someone else’s cell-phone conversations has to be one of the most annoying torments known to man and woman, and it’s even worse when you’re in a confined space like the train, a restaurant, church, a prison cell, or a hospital bed.

Nobody wants to hear about your nasty boss or your bonus. And nobody wants to hear how much you love your boyfriend or your Chihuahua. I never realized eavesdropping could be so annoying.

I can’t stand when I go into the men’s room and have to listen to some guy in the stall talking to his girlfriend about what club they’re going to that night, their party plans and their love of Patron. If former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg could ban trans-fats, Big Gulps and smoking in public parks, we ought to be able to ban phone calls in the men’s room.

But cell phone rules are almost impossible to enforce. Metro-North says extended conversations have to be conducted in the “vestibule,” but commuters ignore that rule. Instead, they sit in their seats and drive others to distraction.

The other day, a fellow in the so-called “quiet car” was calling to inquire about his mother’s health. Now, that’s a really important topic, I admit, and I hope his mother’s health is improving, but rules are rules, and the rules say no talking, so zip it. Where was the conductor anyway?

All of which means to say changing the rules to allow cell phone calls on flights would be a disaster. And even though the relaxing of the Federal Communications Commission regulations will allow games on your smartphone and other activities, you know darn well phones are going to be ringing.

There will be emergency calls. There will be secretive calls in the lavatories and there will be all kinds of headaches that will ultimately lead to rioting, delayed flights and screaming.

Delta has said that whatever the federal regulators decide, there will be no calls on its flights because it would be disruptive to others. A majority of its customers who were surveyed agreed with this decision. And a poll by Quinnipiac University determined that, by a two-to-one margin, Americans oppose relaxing the 22-year-old ban on calls above 10,000 feet.

Can you imagine the chaos that will erupt if 2 million passengers a day get the green light to make calls? The hysterics will be worse than a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden, and at least at the Garden, the yelling is so loud that nobody bothers to use their phone.

 

Joe Pisani may be reached at [email protected]

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