Empty vessels make most noise, my granny used to mutter. Jeez, she should be around today - the unrelenting chatter would drive her up the walls.
I write this on a train to New Haven. Directly in front of me a master of the universe has made at least seven noisy phone calls berating, cajoling and generally ramming his opinion down a succession of reluctant throats.
Now you might say I should interrupt and demand that he take into account the silent majority suffering around him. I would counter, however, that there are over 300 million guns in this country and nearly as many stressed out people; besides this gentleman does not strike me as a follower of Mahatma Gandhi.
And anyway he’s only at the same annoyance level as the lady across the aisle who seems to think she is the only one who has ever been blessed with children, and that the universe waits with bated breath for the next pearl of wisdom that may drop from the bratty three-year old Einstein accompanying her.
Whatever happened to the etiquette that once governed the sharing of public space? Gone with the cowboys, I suppose.
Some in my carriage have donned earphones to lessen the decibel level, but the majority have become so inured to rudeness they might well be Rush Limbaugh listeners.
Now I hasten to add that I’m far from a Noise Pollutant Nazi. I lived for many years above an after-hours club and slept like an innocent on the rare nights I was not downstairs adding to the pre-dawn hubbub.
On one occasion in a San Franciscan motel room I even slumbered through the hoots and hollers of a party thrown next door by members of the reggae group, Burning Spear. Of course, given their unrelenting smoky Jamaican patois, I couldn’t understand a word they were saying.
I guess my real problem is the sheer inanity of the exchanges one is forced to endure in cell phone conversations, most of which seem to begin with that most existential of questions: “Where are you?”
I know exactly where I am - just past Stamford - and I’ve had a frightening epiphany. The day must nigh be at hand when phone service will be introduced into the NYC subway system.
I’m that rare pilgrim who loves the subways. No one speaks, no one looks at you, and there are 656 glorious miles of non-existent chatter from the top of the Bronx to farthest Rockaway.
Even clueless European tourists instantly recognize the code – “Shut the hell up and don’t even dream of looking at me!” I have little doubt that a posse of zombie aliens in drag could make the ride from 207th to Beach 116th without so much as a raised eyebrow.
I recently wrote to President Obama and Speaker Boehner with my solution to the fiscal crisis. Slap a five-cent tax on every cell phone call; and should these two guardians of the American purse care to resurrect the golden days of the Clinton surplus, then charge a dime for each text and a quarter for every digital Christmas card that takes more than ten seconds to open.
They could save Social Security, Medicare, Steve Duggan’s line of credit out in Belmont, and those beautiful bridges to nowhere beloved by Sarah Palin (Whatever happened to her? Seems like Snooki stole her thunder.)
Ah, peace comes dropping slow, as old Yeats once sighed. The lady with the three year old Einstein departed in Fairfield, probably signing him up for advanced courses with the Jesuits; and halleluiah, the master of the universe has disembarked at Bridgeport lugging two bulging cases – full of assault rifles and 30 rounds magazine clips?
Many passengers have drifted off, mouths open, Bieber or Britney breathlessly pumping through their earphones. The benevolent ticket collector has just heaved a sigh of relief – New Haven in sight and no shoot-ups, shouting or Red Sox-Yankees showdowns.
And my poor granny is safe in heaven - far from those empty vessels that she so abhorred, and blessed that she never made it to this age of ceaseless, noisy vapidity.