Marketing or social conditioning? NJ Transit “Quiet Commute”

NJ Transit Quiet Cars in Hoboken NJSeconds after I typed the above sub-heading, I realized that “Marketing” and “Social Conditioning” could easily be interchanged for one another. At least in today’s day and age. But I decided to keep it for purpose of this story.

Have you seen these NJ Transit Quiet Commute signs over at the Lackawanna Terminal downtown?

Now, I don’t use these trains, but I reckon the first and last cars were decreed by NJ Transit to be “quiet” cars – most likely based on customer requests and complaints. And since they’re a semi-autonomous entity, I suspect they have a level of authority to enforce the rules they establish.

It’s apparent that many citizens live busy, hectic lives – and might work long hours to barely scrape the monthly mortgage payments together, along with nanny costs, property taxes, rising fuel prices, insurance, food and all that other nonsense. The last thing they want to hear is obnoxious bond traders yammer about how they “only made 4.5 million last year,” and that they can only afford three prostitutes a week instead of four back in 2012. Now they have to start a hardly-read magazine to feel worthwhile!

Hence, the rising number of customer complaints led to this brilliant marketing initiative from our friendly regional rail provider: NJ TRANSIT QUIET COMMUTE CARS.

NJ Transit Quiet Commute marketing campaign

Why does NJ Transit remind passengers to be respectful?

See, I don’t really have an issue with NJ Transit posting these signs up. They’re doing it because, sadly, it’s a sign of the times.

You don’t have to go back too far – maybe even just the 70′s – but more so back in the early 1900′s, there was practically ZERO disrespect on public transportation. People kept to themselves, and cared deeply about disturbing others – and just wanted to get home to loved ones.

With the advent of technology, instant communication, endless music, and more – many commuters and members of the general population have lost a great amount of respect to their fellow man. They treat every square inch they traverse as their own private land. Hollering, changing babies, chatting about nonsensical celebrities on their cell phones, and more. Why? What is so urgent about any of this? And why can’t it wait until you’re in your own private confines? Since when did we become so…. (you guessed it) Entitled?

What has happened that civility is the exception in 2013?

It seems like just overnight, that people have become exceedingly self-centered. OK, not overnight exactly – but at the very least a dramatic shift in the last decade. Here are some random off-the-top-of-my-head examples:

  • How many people do you know that do not consciously look around them 360 degrees before coming to a grinding halt on a sidewalk to talk to some “acquaintance” of theirs about nonsensical and superficial topics? And act surprised when a nearby pedestrian almost collides with them?
  • Same goes for when people use smart phones. To text, surf, update status and so on. The trend I’ve acutely noticed is as such: They KNOW you’re coming, because they still have some senses left (ears, etc.), and they wait until the last millisecond to look up see who just passed them. Seriously – one tenth of a second is what need to see all they need to see. Plus, that exempts them from the uncomfortable “eye to eye” contact that leaves some people befuddled. People are becoming incapable of basic human communication these days. It makes them uncomfortable.

However – I’m still trying to piece this whole “quiet commute” thing together.

I just don’t understand why NJ Transit needs to do this? Why can’t they let society sort it out for themselves?

Why do they have to decree what is acceptable and what isn’t? Did we, as a society used to have a way to sort these common things out amongst ourselves? Why must “authority” (or perceived authority) be the ones to dictate human behavior?

Last thing I want is some “authoritative” agency to tell me how to behave. I already know how to do that on my own. I’m paying to use your train, and I expect to use it with respect and courtesy.

Why the need for such rules and messages?