The Quiet Carriage, what a brilliant idea. A sublime place to travel, a place free of mobile phone use, tinny earphone noise and loud conversations. You might say that it should maintain a library like atmosphere. Well that was what was in the instruction manual and is part of the expectation from the customers like me who use it. The reality is different. For those of an auditory sensitivity it is steel tube of the most intense torture, yet we keep returning in the vain hope that one day, just one day it becomes the haven we hope for.
My job takes me to all sorts of places and I spend a great deal of time occupying a seat in Coach A, The Quiet Carriage. Always a reserved seat by the window, always facing forward, never at a table. Taking my seat at silly o’clock in the morning, only just caffeinated with the other ‘ever hopeful’ souls a deep breath can be heard as the doors close and the whistle blows.
Then it starts…
“Good morning to those passengers joining us Bath, and welcome aboard the 06.48 service to London Paddington. Our journey today will call at Chippenham, Swindon, Reading and London Paddington. Please note this service will not be calling at Didcot Parkway. I will be passing through the carriage, so if all passengers with unchecked tickets could please have them available for inspection that would be appreciated. Please note that super saver, advanced super saver, savers, saving money tickets, tickets that are more economical than the rip off tickets that are not saver or super saver tickets are not valid on this service. Once again this is the 06.48 to London Paddington, our next stop will be Chippenham.” Doesn’t sound like much but you get a train manager who had aspirations of being a DJ, TV Announcer (voice of the balls) or even Town Crier believe me when I say that these can go on forever, repeating the same message over and over, shattering the initial peace that was promised.
Our next ear splitting moment is the Train Host. Always in broken English and through a microphone that can suffer from feedback or crackle we are to experience this. “Ladies unt Gentlemen this is customer host, we have selection of tis, coffis, bacon rolls, croissants, hot unt cold snucks as well as hut chucklate and conf, confec….sweets. We located betwin furst und stundrd cluss at the front of train…please bring change”
Once this has been delivered we then get the train doors slide open in a Texas Chainsaw Massacre style, and the Train Manager lumbering through cracking people over the head with ticket machines which bulge from his pockets and belt. “Good morning all tickets and passes please.” This process is repeated at every station on the journey. Would it be too much to maybe not deliver these speeches in the Quiet Carriage? The fact that people have mostly reserved their seats ahead of time suggests that they have travelled frequently and know how it works, and so do not need to be bombarded with these incessant announcements, reminding us of what is ahead. Has the position of Swindon and Reading somehow changed since the last journey? No it hasn’t so Shhhh please!
Based on this I reckon that on a 90minute journey us Quiet Carriage inhabitants probably experience about 60minutes of quiet. Yeah right, that would be too easy wouldn’t it? Those 60 minutes get eroded really fast by fellow passengers who frankly should travel in carriages named after other alphabet letters. These travellers fall into differing categories of annoyance and I will do my best to take you through my own private hell. Suffice to say that each of my own senses is attacked mercilessly.
- The Noisy Eater
My complete and utter pet hate is noisy eating. I simply cannot stand it. If you were not brought up to eat your food quietly with your mouth shut then frankly you are no better than an animal. Yes I know sometimes you miss breakfast or need a little something to get you through your journey before your dinner, but really must you do it so moistly? I have been witness to sandwiches being stuffed into mouths where the filling has dropped out (mostly prawns), baguettes being inhaled and pasties being nibbled. All with an accompaniment of noises. Squelch, squelch sounds, some sort of breathing chewing noise that I cannot type, and salivation off the charts, it all happens and it is frankly foul.
- The Noisy Eater who eats slowly
This noisy eater takes things further. It is not enough to punish us with their noisy eating, oh no, because they are in the Quiet Carriage they do it slowly. Somehow they are of the belief that by eating noisily slowly it is quieter. This is simply not true. An item the slow noisy eater often consumes would be crisps. The slow rustling (yes just like in a cinema) frays each nerve, the muffled slow motion crunch pours salt and vinegar onto the open wound. Each passing moment getting worse and worse as one tries to focus on ones book, but the words on the page just scream ‘kill the fucker!”
- The Healthy Noisy Eater
Celery, Apples, Oranges, Nuts, Boxes of Salad all make horrible noises. You might be the most beautiful woman, the most handsome man, you might be super fit and buff and gorgeous and scrummy but once you start down this road you are basically back with the animals.
- The Whisperer
Who doesn’t love good conversation, it ebbs and flows, both parties seamlessly locked in the most wonderful of social interaction. In the Quiet Carriage this joy takes place, in whisper format. It is like listening to snakes. Forked tongues ticking my ears. Hissing at each other constantly, the whispering punctuated with the occasional giggles or titters. At school we were taught that whispering is rude, only a spy should whisper, these people are not spies.
- The Noisy Texter & Keyboard Pecker
Yes I know you are thinking, Simon, texting doesn’t make a sound. Yes it does. Especially if you have not turned off the clicking sound in your settings. Click, click, click, click, then a rapid cliiiiiiiicccccckkkkk as they hit delete and start over. Sad to say older people are the biggest culprits, pecking away, clicking clicking clicking as they text a friend from there local Inner Wheel or Rotary that the charity dance has raised £50 from the sales of Betty’s wonderful baps. I just want to reach over and say “would you mind ever so much” snatching the thing out of there hand a doing the setting thing myself.
By contrast, the keyboard pecker types noisily. Not the gentle caress of the their MacBook air keyboard but the hammering of each key individually, making the chair shake. Hammer peck hammer peck. I tell you if I had a hammer…
- The Reactive TV & Film Viewer
Who doesn’t like Netflix or Prime, come on we all do. Devices make it so easy to catch up with your favourite show or film, genius. Some of us appreciate your viewing choices and respect your decision to watch them on the train. We don’t need to get involved though. Sudden intakes of breath, a suppressed laugh or a gasp does not put your fellow passenger at ease. No in fact it puts them on edge. You may as well hand me one of your earphones as you have forced me to share your experience. The thing is when I glance your way you become defensive and think I am watching your show, so you turn the screen slight askew therefore depriving me of being able to anticipate your gasp, or giggle. How selfish.
- The Phone User
“Hello. Yes I am on the train. I am in the Quiet Carriage so I need to keep my voice down. She’s done what? Really oh that is funny, how did she do that? And what about Granny? Did she see? Oh you should have taken a photo, ooh hold on”
“Forgive me for interrupting your call, this is the Quiet Carriage, would you mind taking your call outside in the vestibule?”
“Oh back now, I have to just move, I am in the Quiet Carriage and I need to go outside, people are complaining. I know. Yes well. I know. Touchy. Hang on. Oh no, she didn’t, why did she say that? Honestly Granny can be very tactless, I would just make her some tea and leave it I will sort it when I get home. About 7pm tonight. Yes I know it is later but that was the first off peak ticket I could get and you know how I like the Quiet Carriage as I get my seat reserved. Lasagne. In the fridge, put in at…ooh just a minute.
“Sorry but could you finish your call or take it outside please.”
“Yes sorry, look I have to move, what was I saying? Yes gas mark 4 put it in at 8.00 and it will be ready when I get home. What about the cat? Hang on a minute for some reason I can feel a short stabbing pain…”
- The Parent
The Quiet Carriage is no place for children and by children I mean any human being under the age of 16 or should no better. They cannot sit still, they cannot be quiet and the constant outbursts of “are we there yet?” “ooh look moo cow. What sound does that make?’ and “why is that man staring like Daddy when he gets has a drink?” become tiring.
- The Avon Lady
Not many people know this but I am a qualified make-up artist, yup dabbled in the industry for a while, I was quite good, the things I could with a decent blending brush and mica free eye shadow would melt your heart. The same cannot be said for ladies who for whatever reason have chosen to apply their make up on a moving train. Foundation doesn’t blend properly, powder just goes everywhere, concealer just doesn’t and blusher either creates a stripe or makes their ears look embarrassed. Eyeshadow is laughable, eye liner is ear liner, straight lines impossible, mascara becomes a slow motion prevention exercise to prevent to removal of the eye ball and lipstick has its own comedy moments. It is simply questionable behaviour. What annoys me though is the smell of these products, it fills the small carriage with the sweet noxious odour and when combined with the coffee, bacon roll vapour is simply nauseating. It doesn’t stop though as often fragrance is applied, so a big whiff of something nasty by Kim Kardashian or the like takes flight and the head spins. On that the worst cosmetic application by far, is nail polish. I implore anyone who is wishing to do this on a train to think twice. The fumes are intoxicating and offensive. If you want to become public enemy number one, take on your bottle Chanel Rouge Noir nail polish and watch what happens.
- The Sniffer
Ahh we all get colds and coughs, but tissues come in such handy little packs now that there is no excuse for it. There are loos on the train too all very well equipped with nose blowing equipment. The constant sniffing every couple of seconds is simply a crime and even though one’s health is not 100% when suffering a cold, inflicting its symptoms on fellow passengers can result in a serious depletion of that already lower percentage. You have been warned.
With these categories of traveller in mind, be aware that on their own these are bad enough, combine them however and things can get messy. The noisy eater combined with the Reactive TV/Film Viewer is unpleasant as is Noisy Eating and Children. Not to be confused with eating children noisily, no that is different. The Whisperer combined with the Reactive TV/Film Viewer makes for a new form of discomfort, but add in the third element of noisy eater and basically hell breaks loose. The Noisy Eater and Avon Lady combo results in a look that really is Quavers Chic, little puffs of crisps stuck to eyelids and lipstick with a crumby texture. The Noisy Eater and Keyboard Hammer is never good, the result is slobbering and sticky keys, which only make them hammer harder.
You may asked, why don’t you move to another carriage Simon? Well until the private jet is ready, the thought sitting amongst of all that sniffing, coughing, phone call making, eating, chewing, make up application and subsequent olfactory assault all at once is just too much to bear, so I, like many others, simply live in hope, hope of a quiet journey in a carriage with a library like atmosphere.
Never gonna happen is it….
“Ladies and Gentlemen we are shortly to arrive at London Paddington where this train terminates. Please mind the gap between the train and platform edge as the rather anxious looking man in the Quiet Carriage could push you into it. We would like to thank you for travelling with us and wish you a pleasant day. “