My first brush with a woman and an apple occurred in 1977, when one of the former ate one of the latter on the Washington Metro. For that she was promptly arrested and charged with something or other that I, at the time, duly and vociferously applauded. The Bible, not to mention a youth spent on the New York City subways, taught me something about women and apples. It is all downhill from there.
Now we have the case of Sakinah Aaron, 23 and pregnant, who was descending the stairs of a suburban Washington subway station when she was told by a Metro Transit Police officer that she was talking a bit too loudly on her cell phone. According to the officer, Aaron responded with a several colorful words, whereupon she was arrested for having a "disorderly manner that disturbed the public peace." She was also charged with resisting arrest, but that will not concern us today. Instead, we are here to cheer her arrest for talking too loudly on a cell phone. Throw away the key.
Sooner or later my irritation, my hate, my loathing, my totally insane dislike for loud cell phone chatter is going to cost me my life. So be it. It is a grand cause, and I have, as careful readers of this column know, challenged a man half my age on a city bus to shut the hell up and once asked something similar of a man who was seated in an airport lounge. He rose -- and rose and rose, sort of like a time-lapse film -- until he stood at something like 8-foot-2 and amazingly stopped talking and put away his phone. I consider that a close call and have since tried to vent my ire on women and very old men. Prudence is the better part of valor -- or something like that.
The reason I cheered the arrest of the apple-eating woman is that I subscribe to the broken-windows school of criminology -- or, to put it another way, little things matter. If a neighborhood has an abundance of broken windows it says to one and all that people there don't take care of the place, and that there's not much authority. It sends a signal. The same holds for graffiti, which some people -- idiots all -- consider a form of folk art. Artsy some of it may be, but it says that something -- a wall, a subway train, a bus -- can be defaced with impunity. If someone could do that to a subway, he could do it to you as well. I mean, what's to stop him?
Back when I deputized myself a posse of one and told someone on the bus to speak more softly into his cell phone, a young woman nearby, talking slowly as if I were a total nut case, tried to explain that we were, after all, in a public space. And I tried to explain that that, m'dear, was precisely the point. At home, you can yell all you want. In public, you have to take other people into consideration. Some people are offended by obscene language. Not me, incidentally. Instead, I am offended by the whiny repetition of the phrase "totally awesome." Maybe I should seek treatment.
In some sense, I'm talking here of aural graffiti -- noises that sometimes are on the cusp of intimidating. I include very loud car music, sometimes with so much bass that I can feel the vibes. I include also some very loud cell conversations that are so obscene, so aggressively full of filthy words, that you somehow sense that the talker could turn on you if, like an idiot, you check to see who's doing the talking. This is not recommended.
That's why I cheered the arrest of the dangerous apple eater, who, by the way, won a $15,000 judgment from the Washington Metro system. I fear something similar will happen with Aaron. She will probably raise all sorts of free-speech issues and note that she was not on a train or even in the station, but exiting it. Still, I consider that Metro cop my proxy. He did what I would have loved to do, which is maintain a sense of decorum. Call me a fuddy-duddy if you want, but I like a little peace and quiet. To put it another way, I want you out of my face -- and my ears as well.