Why don’t you go back to your own country?

Dalrymple and his wife meet a lout:

…Like all businessmen on trains, he spoke of millions, very loudly. After a few minutes, my wife asked him to speak a little less loudly.

‘This isn’t the quiet carriage,’ he said.

My wife said that nevertheless he should keep his voice down so as not to disturb others, to which he replied:

‘Why don’t you go back to your own country?’

The other sign of the man’s full integration into modern Britain was his supposition that a quiet carriage meant that in other carriages it was perfectly in order to speak as loudly as you liked as long as you liked.

4 thoughts on “Why don’t you go back to your own country?

  1. TMay

    People on cell phones seem to do that for some reason, also if they are full of themselves and discussing money. It happened to me in a restaurant where a man was dominating a restaurant with his conversation. He was with his daughter and was ignoring her. So I matched his voice in having an open discussion with people in the restaurant about people talking loudly on cell phones. He did not notice but his daughter sure did. At least the next generation got a heads up.

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  2. Gavin

    Excuse the extended essay…

    I was in a similar situation not so long ago on an intercity train in the UK. Two businessmen settled into their seats and commenced a conversation at full volume at the adjacent table. Diagrams came out, laptops opened along with the mouths. It was obviously going to go on for some time.

    These were not thugs, but middle-aged businessmen. All the same, I got up and pointed out that it was a so-called “Quiet Zone” carriage so could they speak a little more quietly. They were clearly stunned that I had the gall to object to their conversation and one replied: “I think that’s only for phone calls”.

    It is true that people using phones are usually the loudest of all. Reasons for this might be:

    1. They are intellectually unable to simultaneously bear in mind both the world of their private phone call the world of their immediate physical environment and they lose track of what they are doing.

    2. They just don’t care. Because they do not personally know the people around them, and consider them of no immediate use, they regard them as not worthy of any consideration. In other words, they’re to some degree sociopathic, lacking in empathy.

    3. They themselves are insensitive and oblivious to what is going on around them, therefore they assume other people are the same and could not possibly object to their behaviour (another sense of lacking in empathy).

    4. They actually delight in broadcasting their tedious conversation to as many people as possible. To impose this on strangers gives them a great sense of self-importance. One often gets this impression. “Who would not be interested in my conversation?! Why, they are lucky to hear it. Indeed, when they hear it they will all wish they knew me and had a life as exciting as mine and such a good friend to talk to as I have.”

    But these two men were not on the phone, rather they intended to have an extended business conversation in the Quiet Zone carriage seats which they had booked without making any effort to lower their voices or be discreet. I thought it was better to nip the problem in the bud.

    Their objection was obviously invalid. Whether someone is speaking loudly on the phone or to a fellow passenger is immaterial – one is still doing it. I replied with something along the lines of “Well, I’d appreciate it if you could keep it down a bit anyway, thanks”. As in Dalrymple’s case, they did for a while, but it gradually became louder a bit later. As in many things, the more margin is allowed, the more advantage is taken!

    I could only approach these two travellers because they looked like the type who might just be reasonable if approached. Sadly this is very rarely the case: if someone is so inconsiderate as to cause offence in this manner in the first place, they are likely to be the kind of person to be far more inconsiderate if challenged, no matter how politely. Like tyrant states, such people will often only respond to threat, and politeness will be seen as easily overcome weakness so will have least effect. In such cases I do what Dalrymple’s wife did, usually immediately such people arrive on the scene. The trouble is finding another carriage without another one of them. I sometimes think public rudeness is forcing people to concentrate on making a lot of money just so that they can seclude themselves away from vulgarity!

    Should we approach the train companies? They did after all introduce Quiet Zone coaches. Perhaps they were becoming dismayed at the lack of consideration among passengers? I did just that, and the train attendant told me that they could not actually enforce this rule and indeed implied they might get rid of the QZ carriages altogether. (In a polite society they would be unnecessary, but here such carriages could serve a purpose.) As Dalrymple noted in another recent article, many rules and regulations are enforced by companies so that they might avoid litigation. When it comes to politeness, such rules are not considered worth enforcing and if they tried to do so they would doubtless be accused of moral arrogance.

    Yet, as Edmund Burke also said:

    “Manners are of more importance than laws. .. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation like that of the air we breathe in.”

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  3. Ellen Fox

    On yet another train, a 3 hour trip in a first class compartment, I and an older couple sat, like hostages, for at least an hour while a younger woman detailed her life loves and problems at full decibel level. Finally, I asked her if she would lower her voice as this was a common space that we all shared. She stopped talking, glowered at me and said, “exactly”. She went on as before although within 10 minutes she stormed out of the compartment and continued her conversation in the corridor. The personification of entitlement. The world belongs to me alone.

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