Monday, April 4, 2011

AMTRAK Quiet (except for ME) Car

I ride AMTRAK trains to work and on trips to NYC 4 or 5 days each week.  Recently AMTRAK added quiet cars on the Keystone service between Harrisburg and NYC.  The rules on the quiet car are No Cell Phone Use, No Loud Talking.  But every other time I get on one of these cars, someone will talk on their cell phone.  Sometimes they are oblivious and did not see the signs on the door and every ten feet along the roof.  Sometimes.  Not often.

Mostly what they want is a quiet car for everyone but them.  They get to drone on about their latest deal or horrible date.  I know a guy who works in a bakery in Lancaster and commutes to Temple several days a week.  He is taking classes toward a PhD.  He sits in the quiet car hoping to do homework.  Then someone starts talking.  He said he waits up to 10 minutes to say something.  He likes having me on the train.  I wait up to three seconds before saying something.  Usually, "There are five other cars on this train, go there."

Since I think people are like gardens--good only with effort, full of weeds in their natural state--I assume the person who takes the call--or worse dials the call and sits on their ass making disturbing 80 other people is a jerk.  So I ask them to leave, shut up or both.  It is worth the hassle because the same jerks who flaunt the rules they want others to obey are cowards.  When they see it is a hassle to act like a jerk they do something else.

Since I am already being a Judgmental Bastard (my favorite segment on Jay Leno.  If you have never seen it, search it on YOUTUBE) I can say that I have never asked a soldier or someone who looks military to be quiet on the quiet car.  The worst offenders are guys in suits.  The hardest to shut up are women.  When they act like jerks, they are used to getting slack.  Last trip back from NYC a large woman across the aisle made a call in the quiet car.  She said "I'll just be a few minutes."  I asked her to spend that few minutes elsewhere.  She stormed off.

Civilian life is being the bad guy for enforcing even an obvious ten-freakin'-signs-and-five-announcement rule.

I let you know if I end up with a broken nose.

Jealousy and Envy

When we were getting ready to go to Iraq, Colonel Perry spoke to the battalion in Oklahoma.  The most memorable part of his speech for me was when he said that envy ruins units at every level.

Of course, envy ruins every kind of community--civilian, military, secular, religious, law-abiding or criminal.  I got a dollar book at a used book store with the title "Envy."  It is one of a series on of seven books, each on one of the Seven Deadly sins.

I am just two chapters into this brief and entertaining look at one of the three worst of the seven sins and I plan to follow the authors advice in thinking about envy vs. jealousy.  Joseph Epstein "I am jealous of what I have, I envy what you have."  He makes clear that jealousy can be good, or at least appropriate, but envy never is.

God is jealous, the Bible says.  He wants to keep those who have chosen to love Him for Himself.  A spouse or lover can be properly jealous.  Of course we all know someone can be crazy with jealousy also, but jealousy is not evil, like envy.

Envy is always bad.  Col. Perry told us that when we feel envy we should go out and get something for ourselves.  Envy can be both evil and passive.  It wants what it doesn't have and does not want to find something else.  Epstein says we always try to keep envy secret which is why it eats at us.  No one wants to admit envy.  Admitting envy is to admit someone else has something better or actually is better than us.  We want what they have, we want them not to have it, but we don't want others to think of us as being that small and venal.

I will be at summer camp in June.  I remember how much it means just to have a bottom bunk.  Envy doesn't have to be about a big topic to be a big problem.