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Kirby: I see red on the Red Line when I hear cellphone chatter

By Robert Kirby

| Tribune Columnist

First Published Mar 02 2014 11:33 am • Last Updated Mar 01 2014 10:46 pm

I was stuck at the Courthouse TRAX stop for nearly 20 minutes last week. I passed the time fuming about how much I hate public transportation.

It’s not my choice. Age (and a concerned wife) has forced me into establishing a safer commute for myself in heavy traffic.

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Alone at the wheel of my truck, with Led Zeppelin bulging the windows, I could spark an incident of road rage without knowing it.

So it’s TRAX when I need to go downtown, even if it means standing in the rain to transfer, paying some guy to go away or getting crapped on by a pigeon.

This time I put the extended wait to constructive use by counting my blessings. I did this my monitoring the operators of private transportation.

Northbound traffic on Main Street was heavy. A continuous line of vehicles passed within 10 feet of me, so close that I could clearly see what the drivers were focused on. It wasn’t the road.

Google map. Texting. YouTube. Texting. Temple Square. YouTube. Porn. Texting. Texting. Genealogy. …

Of the 25 vehicles that passed before the #$%*& Red Line showed up, over half (14) were being operated (in a manner of speaking) by people looking at their phones.

Public transportation didn’t seem so bad then. At least on TRAX I don’t have to worry about one of these idiots bashing into me because they weren’t paying attention. When you’re on a train, anyone who hits you automatically loses.

But the threat isn’t over. Road rage almost always involves someone in another car, but rail rage involves someone in the same car as you. And many of them are on cellphones, too.

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Instead of hoping cellphone users won’t hit me on the freeway, I have to listen to them on TRAX and hope I won’t hit them on the head.

Nothing stretches out an already interminable commute like eavesdropping on someone else’s pointless existence entirely against my will.

I always seem to share a seat with a guy incapable of self-modulation. I’m nearly deaf from rock ’n’ roll and gunfire, but I’d be able hear him at the other end of the car.

"Dude, it was so totally awesome that I almost died! Jason was, like, going, ‘Whoa!" and I was, like, ‘Totally!’ and Brenda was, like, ‘OMG, you guys,’ then Tiffany said… ."

I calm myself by going to a safe place in my mind, a quiet place where I imagine in great detail how a hammer could turn that cellphone into an excruciatingly uncomfortable hearing aid.

On this particular day, I got lucky. The ride was quiet and peaceful. But then a woman got on the train with a large, wet service dog. And of course she had to sit next to me.

It was OK until we reached the end of the line. When the dog turned to go, he got slobber on my pants. His handler was instantly apologetic.

I waved it off. The dog hadn’t said a word the entire ride. He hadn’t put his feet on the seats. No roughhousing. He didn’t show everyone his new tattoo or belly-button ring, didn’t ask for money and he seemed to have bathed recently.

I’d ride with dogs every day. Hell, they should let them drive.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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