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Commuter Calm

July 8, 2009

I heard that London commuter trains have begun to encourage some of their drivers to conclude their standard announcements with short philosophical comments.  The transportation system has supplied them with handbooks containing famous quotes, as well as training in how to select the best quote for the situation.  Research has demonstrated that people tune out computer-generated voices, but perk up when they hear a human voice.  I’m all for the idea of soothing the jangled nerves of commuters, but wonder how this will actually work.  Consider the announcement of a train delay punctuated with the quote, “Delay is preferable to error,” by Thomas Jefferson, or “He who hesitates is lost.”


I prefer the way the Japanese soothe commuters, with taped bird calls played on loudspeakers throughout the stations.  The first time I heard this above the tumult of the train station packed with rush hour commuters, I kept looking for the birds.  After hearing a variety of calls in several different stations, I finally figured out that the singing birds were recorded.  How like the Asian mind to combine mechanistic technology with naturalistic beauty with such clever effect!  We don’t have a public transport system here in Houston, so we Houstonians have to find our own ways to make drive time tolerable.  I’ve considered listening to the sounds of nature I have on CD, but worry that I will become too relaxed.  There is a difference in being a commuting passenger and a commuting driver, and I’m a bit afraid I could easily forget that distinction.


  1. Zeke Godwin July 9th, 2009 22:13 UTC

    I read this and I cracked up. I could just see you looking around the stations for the birds.

  2. Linda Barber September 1st, 2009 16:50 UTC

    I learned a long time ago to RELAX while commuting. I just listen to the radio and only get disturbed if it is raining so hard I can’t see the car in front of me.

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