[EDITORIAL NOTE: On a recent post about a blogging survey, several readers suggested a survey of elderbloggers. It's such a good idea that I am creating one as we speak that I expect to post next week. On the theory that one person can't think of everything, I welcome your suggestions for what you would like to know about the elderblogging community. Just click the "contact" link in the upper left corner of this page to send your thoughts.]
Last week, 60-year-old John Clifford appeared in Manhattan Criminal Court on charges of disorderly conduct, harassment, misdemeanor assault and petty larceny (a business card).
Among the specific acts that led to the criminal charges were cursing a train passenger, slapping the hand of another and berating many for talking loudly to one another and into their cell phones. All he wants on his commute, Mr. Clifford told Judge Larry Stephen, is to read his newspaper and get started on the day’s work.
Crabby Old Lady’s sympathy for Mr. Clifford is boundless. If Crabby could find him, she would give him a hug, a big kiss and buy him a drink because he is willing to make a jerk of himself (and he certainly has) to take a stand against NOISE – constant, daily, insistent, annoying NOISE from louts who believe their right to assault others’ ears and concentration supersedes everyone else’s right to peace and quiet, particularly in a closed environment.
Crabby has never asked a loud cell phone user to please keep it down without having been berated, scorned and blasted with the F word. When she has asked train conductors, restaurant waiters and even movie theater managers to ask others to lower their voices, she has been told there is nothing they can do.
Cell phone users reserve the right to screech, yell, shout and holler in all public places, frequently asserting that right with "It's a free country, lady." When Crabby commuted more than hour each way by train for two-and-a-half years, there was not one trip on which these boors didn’t talk loudly enough to be heard ten rows away. (And that complaint doesn’t include obnoxious iPod wearers who crank up the volume so that an irritating, buzzy noise precludes any attempt at rational thought.)
When did noise become the default public behavior, Crabby wants to know, the standard against which there is no recourse? And why are the noise makers always defended? The The New York Times, in an editorial about Mr. Clifford, accused him of “vigilantism”:
“…despite years of complaints, arrests and summonses, none of which have stuck – [Mr. Clifford] is free to keep doing what he does: abusing fellow commuters in the name of peace, quiet and civility.”
They said this with such certainty of their position, with such an utter lack of irony that one can only assume members of The New York Times editorial board are among the cell phone troglodytes.
Did you know the word “noise” is derived from the Latin word nausea and that noise has serious health consequences:
“Noise is among the most pervasive pollutants today…
“Noise negatively affects human health and well-being. Problems related to noise include hearing loss, stress, high blood pressure, sleep loss, distraction and lost productivity, and a general reduction in the quality of life and opportunities for tranquility.
“The air into which second-hand noise is emitted and on which it travels is a “commons,” a public good. It belongs to no one person or group, but to everyone. People, businesses, and organizations, therefore, do not have unlimited rights to broadcast noise as they please, as if the effects of noise were limited only to their private property. On the contrary, they have an obligation to use the commons in ways that are compatible with or do not detract from other uses.”
Noise is a risk to everyone’s health, but you wouldn’t know it from official response. People whose ears are assaulted are routinely advised to remove themselves from the area. Judge Stephen asked Mr. Clifford, “You can move to another car, can’t you?” Crabby's personal train experience is that there is no car without cell phone yappers. The judge also asked, “But you have to realize some of your conduct is inappropriate?”
Clifford’s and not the cell phone jackasses' conduct is inappropriate? Along with the Times editorial board and the judge, Long Island Railroad officials have turned the idea of offensive behavior on its head:
"'Some of our customers feel as if they have been abused by Mr. Clifford’s behavior,' said Joe Calderone, a spokesman for the railroad.”
- - The New York Times, 9 April 2008
Mr. Calderone and Judge Stephen sound like General Petraeus and President Bush: right is wrong; up is down; left is right. Crabby is reeling from cognitive dissonance.
In the end and to Judge Stephen’s credit, he acquitted Mr. Clifford of all charges, and Crabby fervently hopes he is back to "abusing" the cell phone barbarians on his commuter train.
Oh, and did you read that the European Union approved cell phone use on airplanes within the continent? Crabby wonders how long after this decision goes into effect the first cell phone homicide will take place at 30,000 feet. Listen carefully when you hear the news story; it may be Crabby Old Lady who is arrested for the crime.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Peter Tibbles recalls True Loves in a Small Town.]