It was interesting taking my first long-distance trip outside of California recently. I decided to take Amtrak’s California Zephyr from Davis, Calif. to my hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah.
The eastbound train ride was exceptional and it arrived in SLC an hour early. Caveat emptor — the train will more than likely be delayed at least at little bit. For example, the westbound train into SLC was six hours late.
I didn’t turn my cell phone off during the trip and took a phone call from my dad shortly before arriving at a stop in Nevada. This call had me rethinking my thoughts about allowing cell phone use on airplanes.
My call seemed perfectly natural. After excusing myself from the companions I was occasionally speaking, I leaned toward the window and had the conversation quietly. Earlier, another passenger was texting and making phone calls and I could barely notice.
If I could have a reasonable conversation while aboard a train, couldn’t people do the same on an airplane?
Maybe 95 percent of the time, people will be discreet on the phones while flying. As people against on-board phone calls will point out, there are always going to be louts, loud-mouths and people who otherwise will be intrusive. My thinking is that they will be intrusive anyway and cell phones will probably add little to the equation.
After all, two young children boarded the train and they were plenty loud without the need of a cell phone. For what seemed like hours, the pair loudly commented on matters such as the price of the on-board meals and unwillingness to eat dry cereal for breakfast the following morning. Heaven forbid what would happen if they were given cell phones.
Of course, the train truly is a different beast than other forms of transportation. Driving in a car is a distinctly individual experience or one done with families and friends. A plane or a bus is often just a means of getting from Point A to Point B. They turn the seat belt light off, but how many people really feel like moving about the cabin? Most people remain restrained in their sardine-like seats.
On a train, the accommodations are more spacious and people mingle and converse more freely (if they choose). If people get really loud, one can easily move forward in the train and sit in the lounge (which I did at least once).
Despite my earlier reservations, I think cell phones could have a place on board airplanes — provided it costs less than it does to check a bag these days.