Now the enforcement of these strictures can be amusing. The Quiet Car is increasingly patrolled by stern Acela gendarmerie whose officers, I have noticed in recent months, are getting trigger happy. This I believe is because, though many of us in the Quiet Car are benign readers, worldly enough to understand when a forgotten cell phone goes off or a pin drops, many habitues of the Quiet Car are obvious neurotics, waiting to erupt over that offending pin-drop, to say nothing of the errant cell phone. The neurotics, I believe, have prevailed on Amtrak to enforce an Abu Ghraib mentality in the car.
This encourages pranksters to call their travel companions' cell phones just to see if they can cause a scene on the Quite Car. A friend seated in front of me last month, suspecting (correctly) that I had forgotten to silence my phone, stepped out of the car and rang me up, and all hell broke loose. He was vastly amused -- and I admit I, too, had to laugh.
The gendarmerie of the Quiet Car have yet to receive the full authority of the Homeland Security Department and are thus not much more menacing to adults than school crossing guards. Moreover, one can easily spot the neurotics among one's fellow travelers, and they are delicious targets for practical jokes -- for instance, a coughing spell or leaving one's cell phone out as if in wait of an urgent call from a loud-mouth pal.
Now do not misunderstand me. The Quiet Car is not Animal House. We devotees of the car are there to read or to rest. The remainder of the train is also mostly peaceful. It is a civilized two hours and 45 minutes between cities, and the stress factor is almost non-existent. Even seasoned flyers suffer stress in air travel. There is none on the rails. I am proud to say I am a big enough man to admit past error. The railroads have a future.