There’s nothing so corrosive to romance as a cellphone conversation on an Amtrak train. Office cubicles are bad enough, but at least there people know you — and you can always get up and find an open conference room if you suddenly find the need to call someone “shmoopie.” Among strangers, for some reason, I revert to the eighteen-month period during my early teens when I forced my mom to whisper in public. “John, do you like these pants?” “MotherrRRRR! ShhHHH!” Apparently, I was petrified that total strangers would learn Important Secrets about me, like for example whether I liked those pants or not.
On Friday, I traveled from Philly to Boston and back for business, spending a cumulative total of, like, ten hours on the train. During which all my cellphone conversations went like this:
Kate: You want to go to the movies this weekend?
John: [barely audible] sure, that’d be great.
Kate: Okay, I miss you!
John: [even quieter] y.s, m.ss you t.
Kate: I love you, sweetie!
It’s kind of odd, I guess, seeing as how I am willing to be seen eating macaroni and cheese in an unflattering way on my webcam (photo on request), that I’m so shy about getting overheard on the phone. And it’s only for personal calls; I can do business just as loud as any other type-A Acela jerk.
Today was the worst, as train 180 to New York was stalled on a side track with the lights and ventilation out, turning our car into a sepulchural aluminum can. You could hear other commuters breathing two rows away, so when Kate called to tell me that she’s fond of me, etc., my replies were so quiet as to reach the point of telepathy.
Kate: I can’t wait to see you!
John: [glares beetle-browed at phone]
Jeez, how do I get over this? Am I doomed to confine my feelings to Instant Messenger windows? Should I practice a booming Gomez Adams “Cara Mia!” in front of the mirror every morning? Hell, I’d probably be doing the othe Amtrak commuters a favor, right?
Kate: How was work today?
John (Loudly, with Pepe Le Pew accent): Ah, my leetle white pigeon, my leetle plum dumpling, I cannot wait to once again hold you in my arms and wheesper ze sweet nothaings…
Yeah, THAT’d get the commuters’ attention, all right. I like those pants, by golly! You hear me, world? I LIKE THOSE PANTS!!!