my way or the highway

One of my pet peeves lately in society is all the hypocritical “rules” that people create — they are societal norms in the making, or at least something that some people want to make a societal norm. Actually, I really guess I’m not sure what exactly they are. I don’t know what the societal norm actually is in most of these cases, and truth be told, I’m convinced society doesn’t know what the norm is.\

Today’s questionable societal norm is: talking whilst on public transportation.

While I understand that you are not supposed yell and be really obnoxious when you are talking to someone while riding public transportation, since when are you not allowed to carry on a conversation with someone you are sitting with? I’m not talking about having a conversation across a few seats or across a crowded subway; I just want to know who decided that I am not allowed to talk to the people that I am sitting on the train with?

Now yesterday on the train there was an Asian lady on her cell phone. She was speaking rather loudly in a foreign language and another woman in the train car got up and yelled at her multiple times for talking so loudly. In addition, a man stood up about 4 rows away and was extremely agitated about the lady on the phone. While I agree that it is impolite to talk loudly on your cell phone while in public, I also think it is wrong to yell at a complete stranger for just talking on her cell phone — there is a much politer way that that could have been handled. But back to my original point, if you are on a train and sitting with others, is it wrong to carry on a conversation?

I always thought that it was absolutely fine to talk to the people you are with on the train, or any other form of public transportation but lately I have noticed that many people are against this. Not only are they against it, but many of them are hypocrites who carry on their own conversations at times but then give other people the stink eye for doing the same exact thing. Take for example two of my fellow bus riders nearly every morning. Every morning that I have been on the bus along with the two of them, they are always chatting away. They are not being loud, and even though it is 6:30AM and most of us are half asleep, no one complains or says anything to them. Then take the random morning when one of them is missing and insert my high school classmate on the bus. The two of us have a simple chat about nothing special, and here comes the evil glance from the man who talks almost daily on the bus. So apparently it is OK for him to chat on the bus, but if he wants it to be quiet, then apparently no-one else is supposed to talk on the bus either.

Then today I was sitting on the train with two friends and while one of them chose to sleep for the majority of the ride home, the other two of us chatted pretty much the whole ride home. We weren’t being loud, it wasn’t a conversation about anything inappropriate, but still the people reading their papers across the isle from us still continued to glare over their papers looking at us in a disapproving fashion. Now I don’t know if these people have ever carried on a conversation while riding public transportation, but I would like to know since when it became wrong for me to talk to the person sitting directly across me that I got on the train with?

So what’s your take? What are the societal norms for talking on public transportation?


  1. Maureen Gotimer · September 30, 2009

    >I agree with you. I also could be they don't like what you have to say, but then, again, it's none of their business! Of course you have a right to your own conversation; after all, we do have freedom of speech, right?


  2. Maureen Gotimer · September 30, 2009

    >correction… "It also could be…"


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