Sunday marked a great day for America. Nay, a great day for mankind. For you see, on Sunday morning, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was asked to leave Amtrak’s quiet car for speaking loudly on his cell phone.
I promise you that I’m not being partisan in celebrating Christie’s heave-ho from this special place. I would be just as overjoyed if Hillary Clinton were tossed out for breaking the car’s rules. Hell, I’d have the identical reaction if Pope Francis did what Christie did. (Of course, the Pontiff never would.)
So what did Christie do that was truly unforgivable to those, like me, who frequently seek refugee in Amtrak’s quiet car? Well, according to an eyewitness, it all started when the Republican presidential candidate entered the quiet car in a decidedly unquiet way. Christie reportedly walked into this sanctuary from excessive noise in mid-bluster, giving an earful to two aides traveling with him over some “mix-up with the seating arrangements.”
If that weren’t bad enough, Christie then did something truly reprehensible. I’m talking about the quiet car equivalent of a high crime or misdemeanor that merits the impeachment of a president. The governor took out his cell phone and began having a five- to 10-minute phone call. And if you know Christie, whispering is not really one of his settings, so his phone call disturbed other passengers.
And that’s when it happened. The people of the quiet car rose up, like in a scene from “Les Miserables.” These were a people who refused to be “slaves again.” They united in a crusade against noise tyranny, and presumably in a quiet manner, complained to the train’s conductor about Christie’s behavior.
The next thing you know, Christie was asked to leave the quiet car. And Christie, being Christie, didn’t leave quietly. Instead he was reportedly saying things like: This is “‘frickin’ ridiculous’ and ‘Seriously?! Seriously?!'”
This was like Bastille Day and “shot heard round the world” rolled into one. The people of the quiet car had made it clear that the rules apply to all people, even powerful ones like a sitting governor.
So why is this specific train car so treasured? Let me put it this way, I have been to Promised Land and it’s called the Amtrak quiet car. Just look at the very words Amtrak uses to describe this respite from reality on its website. It begins simply enough: “Need a quiet space to work or unwind?” Who among us doesn’t need a quiet place to unwind?!
Amtrak then goes on to promise us even more: “Guests are asked to limit conversation and speak in subdued tones.” And then here’s the line that almost moves me to tears: “Phone calls are not allowed.”
Let’s all pause for a moment and contemplate a place where you are not compelled to listen to other people’s idiotic cell phone calls. What a contrast to today’s world where strangers’ cell phone conversations are the soundtrack my life. I no longer have songs that I can’t get out of my head. I now have other people’s cell phone conversations. Sometimes I actually need to listen to songs like “The Final Countdown” or even the dreaded, “Who Let the Dogs Out?” in order to drive their cell chatter from my mind and have something else to fixate on.
The quiet car offers a respite from all that noise. And when I’m in it I’m serious about the quiet. Let me share something I never revealed to anyone before: I once went to the conductor and ratted out a guy who had been talking on his cell phone in the quiet car.
That passenger, like Christie, was then asked to leave. I will always remember the embarrassed look on that passenger’s face as he took the walk of shame, cast out from paradise and into a brutal world filled with people incessantly speaking loudly into their cell phones, sharing every inane detail of their lives.
And here’s the thing: I’d do it again in a heartbeat. That’s right, I’m an intolerant person, at least when it comes to the quiet car.
So Christie’s leaving from the quiet car is music to my ears. It sends a clear and unequivocal message to all who dare enter this sanctuary: Be quiet or be gone!