Sunday, May 22, 2011

They Shoot Amtrak Passengers, Don’t They?

America’s mellow West Coast was harshed this past week when an Amtrak passenger was escorted off a train in Salem, Oregon after 16 hours of non-stop loud talk on her cell phone.

Reportedly, her fellow passengers thought Lakeysha Beard “was being rude by refusing to stop yapping while sitting in one of the train’s designated quiet cars. She had not stopped talking since the train pulled out of Oakland, California, 16 hours before it reached Salem, Oregon, when a passenger confronted her about the talking. That’s when Beard got ‘aggressive,’ KATU reports, and conductors stopped the train so that police could remove her and charge her with disorderly conduct.”

DU has not confirmed reports that Ms. Beard’s “aggressive” posture towards her fellow passenger included the warning, “I will knock you out.”

There’s a lot in this little slice of life to find newsworthy, but here are the three points people I’ve mentioned this to find most interesting: 1) that a human being could be so thoughtless to others, 2) that a cell phone’s battery didn’t run out before 16 hours, or 3) how in hell one person could talk for 16 hours without stopping.

As to her thoughtlessness, I think the video footage of Ms. Beard being brought forth from the train bears out that she may have begun her journey in Oakland still committed to a Lakeysha-centric worldview, but getting arrested led to a kind of re-birth of awareness. Instead of the loud, rancorous arrestee we might expect to see at the unscheduled Salem stop, Ms. Beard emerges with the calm, wondering caution of a newborn, (still clutching her phone, no less), astonished to discover a brand new world containing lots of beings similar to herself, at whose existence she had never guessed.

The mystery of the undying cell-phone doesn’t interest me that much. Ms. Beard is clearly a highly-proficient cell-phone user, and likely carries spare batteries. I do know that if she plays her cards right she’s got a shot at becoming a real-life spokesperson for the manufacturer of her favorite phone (now denoted by Salem PD as “Exhibit A”). She can say, “My Droid and I talked from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm, and the only thing that kept us from going another six hours was the damned police. Now don’t you disrespect me, and buy a Droid right now!”

The most surprising thing about all this to me is that Ms. Beard was able to talk so long without any apparent end to the conversation in sight. What could be so important, and at the same time, take so long to say? Then a few rather obvious possibilities occurred to me:

She was actually reciting from memory Virgil’s Iliad in the original Latin, and if she stopped during the ride she’d have to start over from the beginning.

She was actually listing the more notable accomplishments of the Obama administration.

She is actually a brilliant surgeon and was talking a less-skilled colleague through a complex operation entailing the re-attachment of all four limbs, a heart-lung transplant, and a reverse lobotomy.

She is actually a customer-service representative for the cell-phone company, pulling a double shift. (If this turns out to be the case, expect an unfair labor practice lawsuit against both the Amtrak passengers and the Salem Police Department by the National Labor Relations Board.)

My own view is that Ms. Beard just talks too much. And if the amount of public cell-phone conversating going on, both hand-held and hands-free, is any indicator, she’s not the only one.

I don’t know if the ability to crank out 240,000 words without stopping qualifies as a talent. But if nothing else, that much yak is a natural resource, and for the time being the EPA hasn’t banned it yet. (Never mind that Ms. Beard was puffing out more CO2 per mile than the Amtrak’s diesels.)

So I figure: Why can’t this resource be put to a good purpose, or at least a better purpose than perplexing the rest of why it is there’s not a human activity left that can’t be done while having a phone conversation? (Or do you really think the expression “phone sex” still means what it used to mean?)

Why not cell-phone marathons, where the person who talks longest can win a valuable prize, like more cell-phone minutes or some new app that requires 100% concentration while driving?

I realize cell-phone marathons would be much more complicated than a dance marathon, where couples just had to drag themselves around to the music for hours and hours, but at least stayed in one place. On the other hand cell-phone addicts, as we all know, are everywhere.

But in these days of reality-TV crews, filming people anywhere and everywhere has become routine. And we know people will watch it because, well, let’s face it, the phrase “reality TV” is just another way of saying, “people will watch anything.”

Maybe the marathon rules can require that contestants must spend at least 15 minutes each hour not just talking, but talking while doing some highly dangerous activity, like landing a 747 or defusing a bomb. That would be great for the ratings and the promos. The problem is, I’m pretty sure both these activities have been attempted when there was no contest going on.

Okay, I guess my marathon idea isn’t so great, after all. While the Great Depression once led desperate Americans to shuffle around a dance floor for 48 hours on the slim chance of winning enough to pay a month’s mortgage, today’s cell-phone talkers are willing to pay Sprint and AT&T for the opportunity of never, ever, having to shut up again.

So no contest.


John Sobieski said...

You forgot the other question, Who is on the other end listening to this woman go on and on?

Anonymous said...

You'd figure all that yapping with that mouth, she'd get on a treadmill and covert the useless vocal energy to meaningful physical energy.