We’ve all experienced “dead zones” where our phones just can’t seem to get a signal. Some of us have this type of area in our home and have come to expect a weak or non-existent signal underground or in large structures, but we know just how annoying and unpredictable they can be. This may be why one man had been getting away with jamming mobile phone service on the Red Line train in Chicago for the past 2 years until this past week.
By using a handheld jamming device, this Chicago man was able to disrupt cell phone service to the commuters around him in the same train car. While this may seem like a harmless way to get relief from annoying passengers talking away on their phones, jamming devices are illegal to use and come with a fine of up to $100,000 or 1 year in prison. This hefty price to pay for forcing some peace and quiet upon your commuter train can seem unreasonable, but keep in mind that jamming devices also have the ability to disrupt GPS signals, block police radios, and completely block 911 calls.
The man, who was released on bail, is regarded both as a menace and a sort of folk-hero. Many passengers recall seeing him riding the Red Line with a 12 pack of Old Style beer at his feet, scowling at anyone using their phone near him. Sure enough, within seconds, the annoying passenger’s call would drop, and the man could go back to enjoying some peace and quiet (or as much peace and quiet as you can get on an L train anyway.) To be fair, who hasn’t wanted to end some annoying person’s call before?
So what can we take away from this? Well, first and foremost, cell phone jamming devices are illegal and should never be used (even if you find yourself face to face with someone on a conference call in a designated quiet car). Additionally, we should all take a moment to think about why he decided to take the matter into his own hands. If we’re all just a bit more thoughtful about our cell phone use in public and save our calls for when we’re off the train, we can help make public transit slightly less aggravating for everyone around us.