How do you tell a blind man he's in the quiet car?
Sometimes I get an email that's worth a blog post all its own. Such a message came from Frank Irizawa of Elkridge. Call me insensitive, but all I could think of when reading this was that it would make a great skit in a Farrelly Brothers (There's Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber) comedy. So who would you cast as the blind man? I was thinking John Cleese.
We had an interesting situation on the Camden 847 this morning, with a blind passenger. It highlighted the need to have all train stops announced each and every time on every train. The conductors on this train very rarely, if ever, announce any stop. It is always a very smooth running train and always arrives early but they do always neglect the announcements.
A blind passenger with a cane boarded at the Greenbelt station. He ended up in the Quiet car because he was having trouble finding an empty seat. There were plenty of empty seats available but he was sticking his cane out too far and hitting the legs of whoever was sitting next to the empty seats, and assuming that the seat was taken. It seemed that he was not familiar with the seating arrangements of the single-story cars commonly used on the Camden line. He starting exclaiming in a very loud voice that "I can't find a seat".
Now the folks who sit in the quiet cars on the Camden line are quite "conditioned" to not speaking at all and refraining from any conversation. There are also quite a few "quiet car Nazis" on the Camden line (and on the Brunswick, from what I hear). So I sensed a general reluctance to be the first person to respond to the blind man. Someone did finally lead him to an empty seat. The blind man, of course, had no idea that it was the quiet car since he could not see the sign.
The blind man declared out loud, perhaps to no one in particular, that he was not familiar with this train because he was "trying out" different trains and stations to see which would ones be better for him. He has very clear, strong voice - perhaps a result of his reliance on verbal communication because of his lack of sight? I could almost "feel" the quiet car riders cringe as he continued to converse in a voice that could be heard quite clearly throughout the whole car. Even the "quiet car Nazis" were reluctant to tell a blind man in need of assistance that he needs to quiet down.
Of course, when he realized that no announcements were being made over the PA he had to start asking what station we were at. Whoever responded to him with the answer, he tried to engage in conversation with him - to their horror, I imagine. That made the other passengers even more reluctant to respond to his questions, and so he had to repeat his questions three or four times before someone would respond. Finally a passenger explained to him that he was on the Quiet car, and that's why people were being reluctant to respond to his questions. He acknowledged it but continued to engage in conversation. I can only speculate that to a blind person, a lack of verbal interaction with those around him could be somewhat unnerving?
By the time we reached the Riverdale station the "quiet car Nazis" did start "shooshing" him but he either didn't hear them or didn't understand them or just ignored him - I don't which. In my experience, people with very loud voices often have poor hearing.
In my opinion, if the MARC conductors had announced every stop, as well as other normally helpful information, it would have gone a long ways to easing the situation described above. On some trains they do exactly that. On other trains they do it a little or sometimes, and on others like the Camden 847, they never do it. Another example of the "inconsistencies" prevalent in the MARC system.
And, yes, Irizawa's correct. The MARC conductors should be calling out every stop. Not just for the blind but for daydreamers and anyone who isn't familiar with the system. Scenes like this belong in lowbrow movies, not on MARC.