ROCKVILLE CENTRE, N.Y.
For much of my life, I've been working on the railroad - reading the papers on the way to a newsroom. But most of the time nowadays, it's impossible to concentrate.
Like everyone else, I'm surrounded by cell-drones. It apparently has never dawned on this species that when they do their "business" (monkey or otherwise), the rest of us can't do ours - whether it's reading, sleeping, accounts payable, or being left alone in silence.
It's time to fight fire with fire. I've decided that from now on, whenever a celldrone goes on too long or too loud, I will make a racket of my own. I will read my newspaper out loud:
"Meanwhile, George W. Bush promises a $1.3 trillion tax cut, a prescription-drug benefit for seniors that could cost at least $158 billion over 10 years (but is cheaper than Mr. Gore's $253 billion plan), and a unilateral roll-out of a national missile-defense system."
The drones didn't ask to hear what was in the paper, but I didn't ask to hear them whine, haggle, and giggle. If they don't like it, they can always sue me and hire Whine, Haggle & Giggle as their lawyers.
Riders who cherish novels are urged to join in, to share - in a clear, strong voice - passages with offenders. How about a little Bernard Malamud:
"The rain had thinned to mist, and a part-time moon wandered amid the broken pieces of sky. Walking on the campus, Levin was drawn to the student union by the sound of dance music."
A successful counterattack will require many soldiers:
* A sales rep bothered by celldrones could stand and practice an upcoming presentation.
* Electricians, technicians, or anyone with a tool kit could pound a hammer, wrench, or heavy screwdriver on the train floor for 10 solid minutes. That should discourage even the most impervious celldrone.
* Those who like to sleep or just sit quietly have to speak up, too, at least temporarily. They need to confront a chronic droner and tell him or her, "I'm sick of hearing about your silly friend Betty and that pathetic deal with Roscoe Doors & Hinges. Be quiet!"
There is no reason these tactics couldn't be used in restaurants, on street corners, or other public places where drones are misbehaving. We have to do something and do it quickly to show at least some of the droners how ridiculous they look and sound. If we don't stop them now, the next disaster is bound to be a zillion mobile video phones where we will hear and see both ends of the "conversation." Won't that be great.
Larry McCoy is a freelance writer.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society