Saturday, July 11, 2009


Inventions we really need

Forget overhyped  cryptographic advances, and never mind laser weapons; we don’t need those sorts of things as much as we need a different kind of invention — one born in the minds of Mel Brooks and Buck Henry in the mid-1960s.

We need the Cone of Silence (see video here).

But we don’t need it to keep our conversations private, no. We need an enforced Cone of Silence on others, those who do not understand “indoor voices”, those who have no idea how to talk so that they can be heard clearly across the table, but not across the room.

Two young women in the Black Cat CaféThose such as the young woman facing us in the photo to the right (no larger version this time; you don’t need to make out her face).

I snapped the pic with my BlackBerry on Friday afternoon at the wonderful Black Cat Café in Irvington. It’s a small place, and a quiet one, usually. There were six people in the cafe at the time, making it about one third full, and you could hear not a peep out of five of us. But the sixth, the woman in the photo, was holding forth long and loud, projecting as to fill the Metropolitan Opera House with sound. It didn’t help that she was facing into the room.

For that, we need the Cone of Silence. Just picture it in the photo above, as in that video with Maxwell Smart and the Chief.



Laurie said...

My friends often have to tell me to keep it down, but usually only after at least one Long Island iced tea.

I used to love Get Smart, although I don't remember it very well. There's a state building in downtown Sacramento where there are two sets of automatic doors that don't always open when you expect which always reminds me of the closing credits.

Unfortunately, according to the Wikipedia article, the Cone of Silence doesn't work, so you'd first need to perfect it.

Maggie said...

We just took the train from Providence to D.C. and back. The way back was fine, but on the way down, James and I seemed to be blessed with the seats in front of the seats occupied by People with Loud Voices. Three sets. The first was the most entertaining -- an intelligent and elderly woman of foreign origin (she sounded Swedish) who did not stop talking, very loud, the entire way to NY. She was extremely pushy, pushing sandwiches, boiled eggs, and small change on her companion, and she had spoken or emailed recently with everybody in the free world. "I wrote to so-and-so, I got an email back that I thought was very curt..." The next person was a young businessman with a cold who couldn't stop yawning. So he'd say something businessy, loud, and obnoxious, and punctuate it either with a disgusting in-snort of mucus, or a huge yawn. I pitied his companion. The third was a businesswoman who was trying to have a conference call. It was idiotic partly because of the things she was saying and partly because of her "business-ese," I suppose you would call it. She was talking about offering somebody a job. She was also having trouble connecting the conference call, which I confess I found amusing since she was so obnoxious. She was surprised nobody came along and picked up her trash. Her companion seemed almost as annoyed with her as we were. "You expected somebody to pick up your trash??"

Michelle said...

I'm not so sure, I kind of like overhearing conversations sometimes, the stupider the better. Sure it can be annoying at the time but then you can laugh about it afterwards. Maybe if the cone had a programming that you could hear one minute of talk every hour, so that you can hear snippets of conversation out of context, like "in his pants on the bridge" or "covered in batter and cheese"... etc.

Barry Leiba said...

Laurie: Of course it doesn't work — that's why it'd have to be properly invented!

Maggie: Some of the Amtrak trains have a "quiet car", and I always ask about it when I board a train from NYC to DC. Not all the trains have them — and maybe it wouldn't work for you anyway, if you're travelling with the girls or if you want to chat with James en route. But I just bring a couple of DVDs and headphones, and watch them on my laptop (they also have AC power, yay).

Michelle: True. I would want it to be deployable on demand. When I'm tired of listening to the loudmouth, I'd, say, send a text message to a magic number (maybe for a fee, so there's the business model) and it'd drop the CoS on 'em.

Maggie said...

Yes, Barry, I thought about sitting in the "quiet car" on the way home! The girls were actually very quiet for both trips, they had plenty of books. But I didn't want to restrict them to a whisper. Our car wasn't actually that noisy on the way back, but it was FREEZING! And an employee lady yelled at me for asking her to turn the AC down! I had on a sweatshirt and napkins wrapped around my legs, and a person walked into our car in NY and said, "It's f-ing freezing in here," so I know I wasn't crazy. That was after the employee had actually turned the AC off for half an hour, too. (That's when she yelled at me, "For those of you who wanted me to turn the AC off, this is what happens!!") It was baffling.

As Michelle points out, it can be funny. James and I did have a good laugh at our second two passengers afterwards, but the first lady wasn't really laughable, just loud and annoying. Once, in a Papa Gino's, we overheard a very loud woman on her cell phone screaming to the person at the other end, "I'm at PIZZA HUT! Fine! I'll be outside." We had a good laugh over that one. No idea how long she was outside Papa Gino's while her friend was outside Pizza hut. No, we didn't correct her. Is that wrong?