So here’s a new travel etiquette issue for me, and I could use some advice from readers.
I got on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional train in Hartford yesterday and realized, after I sat down,that I was in the quiet car. (The signs were the tipoff: “Quiet Car. Please refrain from loud talking or using cell phones in this car.”)
Great! I was traveling alone and had a lot of work to do. Quiet would be excellent.
When the train stopped in New Haven en route to New York and Washington, a man came into the car, sat down and immediately started talking to a woman who had just seated herself across the aisle. Eventually, she moved into the seat next to him and the conversation continued, in a quieter tone.
I wouldn’t say they were talking loudly, but he was talking nonstop, so that I could still hear the steady drone of his voice over the ventilation system without being able to make out the words. He continued as a woman nearby got up, looking annoyed, and moved forward and away from him.
Eventually, I got up and moved farther ahead, too, so I could no longer hear him.
I was tempted to say something to him about his constant talking. It seemed to me that anybody who wanted to converse on the train could sit in any of the other cars, and ought to do that out of courtesy.
On the other hand, he wasn’t talking all that loudly and the sign didn’t impose monastic silence. So I wasn’t sure of the protocol, having never ridden in an Amtrak quiet car before. Several people seated closer to him were not complaining — although I later noticed most of the nearby seats had cleared out.
Later, in Stamford, an older couple got on and began conversing, quietly but steadily. As the train filled up in New York, a couple got on board with a little girl of about 3 years old. Cute, and very well-behaved, but like any small child, incapable of prolonged silence.
So I moved again.
As we were leaving New York, there was an announcement about the quiet car, reminding passengers that cell phones are not permitted and adding that “if you want to have a conversation, make it a quiet one.” And then the announcer added that “loud electronic devices are forbidden.”
Well, I hope that didn’t mean my netbook. I had turned the sound off, and the keyboard is pretty quiet. I’d been typing on it for much of the trip, and other passengers were using laptop computers.
I did enjoy the relative quiet of the car, and even when it was nearly full it was still fairly peaceful. Several people were talking quietly by then though, and a few had short cell phone calls.
But I’m still wondering. Was I breaking the rules? Were the talkers? Do the rules stop applying when the cars fill up? Is there an established protocol here?