One of the most curious concepts I encounter on a weekly basis is the concept of a ‘QuietZone’. For those who’ve not had the fortune to travel on one of the many (privitised) train operators in the UK the idea might seem obvious at first glance – a train full of people can be a noisy place – so why not designate one carriage, a kind of library like carriage, where the social contract is to keep noise to a minimum. Unfortunately, this being Britain, things are not so simple.
For the uninitiated this is a list of things that it appears is quite OK to do in the QuietZone (quite OK, meaning I have never seen another passenger complain about anyone doing these things – there is no formal definition, in the carriages at least, of what the QuietZone is/isn’t for other than the, somewhat defaced, signage above);
- Talk loudly to the person or people sitting in adjoining seats
- Eat noisy food (such as crisps, crunchy biscuits, etc).
- Listen to mp3 players with headphones
- Compulsively play with a noisy item, eg velcro fastening on a jacket
- Generally make noise
However any of the following is almost guaranteed to inspire another passenger to remind you that this is a ‘QuiteZone’
- Hold a mobile phone to your ear
- Talk at any volume into your phone or headset
- Do anything with a phone that involves noise – receiving an SMS, typing, etc.
Now I’m not making any judgement or outcry about this – I’m just reveling in the curiousness of the situation. Mobile phones users started out as a cultural outcast – loud, rude, inconsiderate (cf. the TriggerHappyTV sketch below) – and this got encoded in the expected behaviour of the QuietZone (whether intentionally or unintentionally), and has since got overtaken by what is now the cultural norm – that everyone has a mobile phone, and feels at liberty to use it without thought.
object width=”425″ height=”344″>
So you end up with the QuietZone, and the the myriad bizarre juxtapositions, like someone stopping mid (silent) Blackberry email to lean over to someone else talking (quietly) on the phone to remind them it’s the QuietZone, and using phones isn’t allowed.
And because of this, and because it’s such a British thing, whenever possible I book tickets in the QuietZone – it’s the funnest carriage in the train 😉