A retired cop who can't abide cell phone users or loud talkers on his daily LIRR commute to and from Manhattan has made it his business to intimidate fellow riders into being quiet. Standing six foot four inches, John Clifford can be an imposing figure, especially if he's yelling at you, slapping a phone out of your hand, or throwing food or a beverage on you. Clifford's been arrested a number of times, but he's never been convicted because the people he rides to and from work with every day have never appeared in court to testify against him. The New York Post refers to him as a "trainiac."
Cowering commuters on the 8:02 a.m. from Long Beach to Penn Station say they've witnessed Clifford scream, punch and poke, swat cellphones, pour coffee over heads, and even throw an egg sandwich - an incident he denies but which earned him the nickname "The Eggman" among fellow travelers.
Clifford is unapologetic about his bullying behavior, claiming that it's his first amendment right to berate people who annoy him and laughing as he describes the time he punched a woman in the face. The lawyer who got his degree after retiring from the NYPD on disability says "If I look like an ass, I look like an ass. I can't change who I am."
We can't wait for wireless service to be initiated on NYC subway platforms. Paradoxically, transit officials are now saying that emergency situations, when people would be most inclined to dial 911 or make a call, are precisely when they would like riders not to use their phones. The discouragement is meant to avoid the accidental detonation of an explosive and the overwhelming of 911 operators who may already be in contact with MTA employees. Also, a large number of people talking on their phones simultaneously could make it difficult for evacuation instructions to be communicated to passengers.