Posted by: Kath Usitalo | May 16, 2011

The Joys Of Travel: Cell Phones On Trains

Amtrak passenger car, Kalamazoo

What better way to close out National Travel and Tourism Week, May 7-15, than with the arrest of an “Ugly American” train passenger?

On Sunday, the last day of the annual recognition of this important industry, a  woman who boarded Amtrak in Oakland, California talked on her cell phone non-top—apparently loudly—and was so disruptive that she brought the train to a halt in Salem, Oregon.

According to an article the woman ignored the announcements to all passengers that they were not to use their phones in the designated “quiet car.” The talker didn’t like a fellow passenger’s request that she hang it up. A “verbal altercation” ensued, police were called, and the “rules don’t apply to me” woman’s trip to Portland was cut short in Salem, where she was released to relatives.

The story reminded me of recent trips between Dearborn and Chicago, five-plus hours each way, aboard Amtrak.

Amtrak arriving in Dearborn

Heading west early one morning a 30-something guy in the seat in front of me talked non-stop for a good hour, took a break, and made another, shorter call. He wasn’t shouting but he was audible beyond our immediate seating area, and the continual chatter was annoying. I couldn’t even eavesdrop because he was speaking another language. He detrained in Kalamazoo and the second half of the trip was blissfully quiet.

On an evening return from Chicago a guy across the aisle from me made at least a half dozen lengthy calls that filled almost the entire ride.

As fascinating as it was to hear about the conference he attended, his new business idea, and how he missed his honey, it was his demeanor that really grabbed me.

The solo traveler lay on his back across two seats, his head by the aisle, stockinged feet on the window. On the window! I didn’t see any children acting like this 60-ish, silver-haired man.

No announcements were made on either trip about a ban on cell phone use—it was not a special  “quiet car.” The conductor did not ask the laid back senior citizen to remove his feet from the window and sit up, like a grown person. Passengers did not request an intervention. No one was thrown from the train.

But where is the decorum? What has happened to common courtesy and consideration for other travelers?

Ah, the joys of travel.



  1. I witness behavior such as you did on your train ride on airplanes when I am at work– in the first class section. Makes it hard on the well behaved ones.

    • Boors are everywhere!

  2. Common courtesy and consideration for travelers? What has happened to common courtesy and consideration for people in general? Oh, don’t get me going on my soap box! HAHA It’s ALL about THEM.

    • I didn’t even mention the line-jumping college girlz I told to wait their turn to get ON the train….

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