He opens his Kindle, wishing the on-screen sentences could drown out the chatter of the crawling-would-be-faster express.

  • The Arabic mother behind him arguing with her son (he hoped wasn’t as aggressive as it sounded).
  • A chorus of chavs chanting “like, y’know, innit.”
  • The man alongside him, barking some African dialect into an ancient Nokia, like a game show contestant who’d be electrocuted if he paused.

Whatever happened to inside voices? Does everyone need to know your business, even if it was intelligible?

He taps to the next page.

His mom used to say, “My Tony’s always reading. He’d rather read the Cheerios carton than carry a conversation.”

If only she’d let him bring Encyclopedia Brown or The Hardy Boys to breakfast. He wouldn’t have had to feign interest in nutritional values.  Being lost in a good box sure beat hearing her same old stories.

  • The bastards at the bowling alley forgot to tip me last night (again).
  • “Uncle” Frank heard about “Uncle” Dave, so we won’t be seeing them anymore.
  • New shoes as soon as we win that lottery!
  • Daddy’s coming home next month. I promise.


He wonders what’s worse: conversations you can’t understand or those you couldn’t comprehend.