The Phone Call on the Train

February 2016 Blog Challenge: Blog 18 of 29

Do you ever find yourself irritated by the person having a loud telephone conversation in your vicinity?  Well, now I’ve decided to do something about it… Yup, I will write about it.  That’ll show em…


I board the train and hastily sit down. Settling into my window seat I quietly notice the woman sitting opposite me, who looks to be somewhere around her early 30s. She has a classic celtic oval face, which, along with her narrow and dark rimmed glasses gives her a distinctly preppy mien. Her hair is dark and of an indeterminate longish sort of length is clipped away from her face. She wears a navy blue modern take on a long waxed jacket. Her sensible satchel bag is strung safely and diagonally across her body.

As a people watcher, I spy secretly on, wondering what I else I could get to know about her. Her hands are sheathed in fingerless gloves, so I can’t divine what her marital status is.

She is (as most people are in that carriage) intently focussed on her mobile phone.   Completely absorbed by it – she fiddles with and strokes the device like it’s a delicate baby bird. She sees all its’ secrets, without a smile or acknowledgement; just with intense concentration. Then, with a few deft taps of the screen, suddenly she is making a call and now everyone in the carriage is sharing her loud life and being simultaneously assailed by it…

I pout inwardly – is it just me or is the fact someone having a loud one sided conversation, less than 2 feet away from my ears, (albeit on public transport), is a genuine intrusion on my own sought after introspection?”

Suddenly everyone is plunged into her world. She may have a pretty celtic face, but she also has a fog horn voice, which slices sharply into my own silent space.

The signal suddenly cuts out and my erstwhile travelling companion is suddenly without any word, except “Hello… Hello?” My face betrays nothing, but I am secretly relieved that the call is peremptorily shut down.

Sadly for me, though this woman is determined to impose her words on the world, she redials, reconnects and continues on with her bland diatribe. I learn about all about her diet (Vegan) and her delicate stomach. I find out where she is going today and who she is going to meet. I learn all about escapades that her dog, Tilly, gets into. Apparently this canine character is a daring escape artist, who slips wantonly off the leash and into the wicked dangers of the urban street.

The train stops at a station, so that now all the carriage and the recipient of the call (whose name we never learn), is regaled by a dialogue as to where we are and the fact that a woman out on the platform is pulling up her tights. They’re wrinkling round her ankles apparently. So now I get to unwillingly share her life and be assaulted by her petty reflections. I felt that the object of her observations deserved a little more circumspect respect, so I chose not to stare at her as well. How damn rude! I mean, here I am making a mental note of all her mores, but at least I’m keeping it to myself and the 1000s of readers this blog has around the globe…

I stretch my feet and accidentally kick a shopping bag she has at her feet. She grabs the bag up, cradles it protectively and then moves it onto her seat for extra safety. It seems a preciously aggressive move. Maybe that is just the way she is…

Still the call goes on and on. The carriage and I now get to learn all sorts of new and unwanted details about her life. She lives with a man – his name is Leonard. We find out all about their friends. We get the endless dross and trivia that probably many of us share, but instead we do it more secretly, in private twos and threes. Not in a railway carriage where everyone really has no choice but to share in the minute every day detail she expresses with volume and vigour, and whether we want to know it all or not – it is imposed on our ears. Processed by our brains. Taking up our precious time.  Finally, after over 20 minutes, the call actually ends.

But my brain is buzzing with irritation and I decide that as I cannot concentrate on reading the book I had stealthily stored in my own smart phone, then I might as well commit all this to juicy memory. I start silently typing away on my own tiny keyboard.

I observe, through the corner of one alert eye, that now she’s tapping and typing away too. As I write about her, I wonder if she’s writing about ME and if I’ll appear in one of her blogs or books one day…

I doubt it though. I doubt whether I have even registered in her consciousness. And when I surreptitiously look again (pretending to peer out of the window). I see she is executing a mixture of typing and peering – pinching at and scrolling the screen of her phone. She has one very busy finger, which does all the hard work, whilst the rest of her follows.

Over on my seat, I’m multi-tasking – in smug fashion, I am nimbly 2 finger typing, whilst in the act of people watching too.

My awareness is heightened, my observation skills are sharped and my fingers fly as I capture the essence of those moments in digital form, to later be regurgitated and polished and considered.

All of life is here on public transport… Not so long ago on yet another train, myself and the carriage were assailed by a very juicy argument. It was worthy of a soap opera, since it turned out that the caller this time was an angry man calling a jealous woman. It seems she had reason to be jealous, since she wasn’t, as it turned out his only romantic relationship… But that wasn’t important, as this man’s anger at this woman’s anger needed to be vented. It’s just that it happened to be vented in a train carriage with around 16 people in it, all of whom were silenced into sharing their argument.

I hated the aggression of it all and even the soap opera story elements didn’t make up for the fact that this man’s voice was cutting into my personal (mental) space.

And it’s not just noise pollution that bothers me… On yet another train journey, in order to try and guarantee a little extra peace, I actually upgraded to First Class.  Had a reserved seat and everything… Arrived, sat down and settled in smugly to my own little bastion of quietude… All good until the next station.  2 business men got on and sat opposite me.  At least their loud conversation, full of adrenaline and bravura was socially acceptable (according to my rules) and I did my best to ignore it.  They had just pulled off ‘a deal’ and were feeling very pleased with themselves. But it wasn’t their words that bothered me, it was the smell… One of them was wearing the aftershave from hell… It was heavy and cloying and after around 10 minutes I started to develop a headache as I unwillingly inhaled the testosterone and stink laden air surrounding them.

Just how do you tackle something like that?  I couldn’t change seat – all the buggers were by now occupied in the carriage I had paid EXTRA money for.  How could I say “excuse me, but your choice of aftershave is making me ill…”  And it was, after an hour of breathing in those fumes, I was, frankly feeling nauseous.  But, cowardly wuss that I am, in the face of 2 loud men in suits, I said nothing, did nothing and suffered in silence…

The simple fact is, once I have stowed my luggage, sat down and claimed my territory, no matter what the world throws at me – I don’t want to move – lazy, moaning prima donna that I am!

But still I travel – I even enjoy the process.. On the whole… But even in the sealed box of my car, I’m not immune to other people’s road rage and myriad interruptions and irritations. At least in a plane I’m spared the spectacle of shared phone calls, but that doesn’t stop loud people doing what loud people do any where, even though they are confined to a small space, where – ahem, normal rules of volume do not apply…

It’s not as if pointing out such jarring loudness has any sort of dumbing down effect. I’m reminded of this a few days later when I am voluntarily out in public again, this time as part of a pub quiz team. The team is made up of people I’ve never met before and I’ve noticed that invariably, in every such group, there is someone who always shouts out the answers. You quietly ask them to turn down the volume, or write down the answer, so as not to share your secrets and scores with the world, but they just don’t get it. It seems that such people either don’t have that kind of awareness, can’t control their loud impulses or simply don’t care…

But of course, it takes all sorts to make a world and when you go out in to it, you will invariably encounter nearly all of them, loud or quiet. This is when I have to remind myself to live and let live. I’m certainly not perfect. I can definitely be loud. I can even be thoughtlessly inappropriate – though I like to think that’s rare. I’m actually an introvert with a soft voice, which is why I try to avoid the loud people of this world. Sometimes I can externalise into an extrovert when the occasion calls for it and you will even see me in the limelight. But often, instead I exact my impact internally, or occasionally it will spill out onto paper, just as it is right now.

I’m not sure if that makes me better or worse than the loud people or it’s just who I am – someone who likes to think that she shouts only when she has something worth shouting about.

You see, out there in public, if you share your world with me, then you have now become my property. I take this seriously though and as I’m scribing it all out, names and circumstances have been changed. This hides the identities of those I write about into biased history, with only enough volume as is necessary to read these words in your head.

These representations, now become my creations and that is the refuge or could it even be, the quiet revenge, of the writer…

~ Sandra Peachey

PS: “Just to let you know that your book has arrived… As a take on Tom Cruise in Jerry Mcquire – ‘you had me at page 1’.  Well done. You are an amazing writer, this book should be a film and I have only read 2 letters” ~ Beverley Jones

A collection of the ‘Peachey Letters’ from this blog have been gathered together – along with new material, into a beautiful book.  It makes the perfect present, for you and for your loved ones … You can buy Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life on my website here or from Amazon (in Paperback and Kindle), order it at any bookshop, or indeed buy it from all good book websites around the world…

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