Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Grumpy Old Man Monologue No. 4 - Sniffers

Today we examine the public transport using Sniffer. Not the substance abuse sniffer, we shall investigate the criminal element on public transportation in a future post, but today I wish to talk about the sniffing person who has the eternal running nose. Not as common as The Loud Person On The Train or The Personal Stereo Listener, the Sniffer is accursed with the condition of excess olfactory fluids whilst lacking tissues or a handkerchief with which to right the embarrassing situation. Two broad groups of Sniffers can be observed: the habitual sniffer, who usually doesn't even know they are sniffing, and the cold stricken, sick Sniffer, who should be home in bed rather than playing the martyr by refusing to have a sick day and insisting on going into work, only to do substandard work due to illness, and spread their contagion to all others they encounter. What do you people think you can achieve by going to work? Are you that important that the company will collapse without your invaluable input? Are you that vain and egotistical that you think you are indispensable for just one day? Get over yourself.

Regardless of the category, The Sniffers are annoying in a particularly subtle way. You hear the first sniff after they board, or perhaps after you have sat down, or maybe had the misfortune to choose a seat next to a Sniffer already on the train but didn't realize they were such as you boarded in between sniffs. You think, OK, that was one sniff, probably just a one off. Then a few seconds later you hear another one, *sniff*. Your shoulders drop and the fear begins to creep over your soul, you wait then there it is, a third and decisive sniff... You know that the rest of your trip you will be listening for the next one, then the one after that and so on, unable to concentrate on your book, meditative exercises or sleep, as you know there will be another sniff at any second.

*Sniff*...*sniff*...*sniff*...*sniff*...*sniff*...*sniff*... etc.

In my experience the timing of the sniffs varies between individuals. There are rapid machine gun sniffs, then there are the slow, plodding sniffs (which are particularly annoying as they can lull you into a false sense of relaxation when you begin to think that perhaps they have stopped - but then *sniff*). There are little meek sniffs and there are great snorts where I have seen small children almost drawn into the nostrils of the snorter, such is the nasal power.

If it annoys you that much, why not offer them a nose blowing implement? I hear you cry. Well if you were to offer one of these sniffy individuals a tissue (assuming you had one to offer) your actions run the risk of misinterpretation. You could well be seen as being patronizing or perhaps trying to deliberately embarrass them in front of the whole carriage and attempting to bring to the attention of the others the fact they were sans tissue. Commuters rarely like to embarrass other commuters in this manner (they appear to shy from even the most basic of communication in my experience).

So like the Loud Person and the Loud Personal Stereo Listener, the Sniffer will continue to obliviously cause aggravation to the rest of us, and sleeves everywhere will be slightly apprehensive.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Grumpy Old Man Monologue No. 3 - Personal Stereo Listeners

The meteoric rise in popularity of the MP3 player, notably the iPod has been a growing thorn in the side of every train traveller who seeks peace and quiet on their journey. The phenomenon of the noisy personal stereo first started appearing in the late seventies and really took hold in the eighties, however the numbers of people inflicting their 'music' on others has exploded in recent years due to Mr. Steve Jobs and his clever Apple marketing. He accurately predicted and exploited the human need to appear musically and stylistically superior by plugging little white ear buds into the sides of their heads and listening to the vast collection of illegally downloaded mp3s that they had amassed on their computers. I think the word 'personal' is not entirely accurate when it comes to this. We have all been there, admit it. The guy or girl, in many cases sitting well away from you who has the music blasting into their ears at full volume and all you can hear is the nasty tinny noise blaring out. Sometimes these audiophiles are not satisfied with the smaller (more popular) ear buds, eschewing convenience for the larger, full headphone style. These people obviously know what they are doing; they do not want to be confused with the general riff raff of personal music consumption, with their unsubstantial little ear plugs. These 'Full Headphone Wearers' purvey an air of musical superiority, in a 'mine is more professional looking than yours, bigger is better' kind of way. I concede that the enclosed phones do cut out much of the surrounding noise, especially the noise of Loud People talking at full volume to the person next to them, to the person on the phone or to themselves. But that does not make up for the fact these people look like they have just left the recording studio and forgotten to remove the 'cans'. I half expect to see the ‘phones ripped off their head as they get up from the seat to leave the carriage, having forgotten to unplug the headphones cord from the mixing desk. There is no mystery as to what type of music they listen to because it is being listened to at number eleven on the volume dial. Inevitably the enclosed headphone wearer is always listing to rave/techno music, as this type appears unable to leave the 'rave scene' behind, even when commuting. This may sound like a sweeping generalisation, but I challenge you to actually pay attention to these ‘enclosed headphone wearers’ next time you see one, and consciously listen to the type of music pumping out – it will be techno.

Do these people realise that their personal music is anything but? Do they notice the uncomfortable sideways looks shot at them by their long suffering fellow travellers. Like the Loud Person, I am sure there is an allocation of a certain number this type per carriage; usually they outnumber the Loud people by about two to one in my observations. They are to be found evenly spaced along the length of the carriage - arranged so that the circumference of their noise 'footprint' just overlaps the other Personal Stereos Listeners' on board. Looks like I’m going to have to get myself an iPod to drown out the noise…