Etiquette Lesson: The LIRR Cellphone Guy




The antics of those who operate outside of the bounds of societal norms are fab fodder for the tabloids. Whether it’s the infamous “Weekend at Bernie’s” guys or that cranky Bay Ridge super, sometimes you have to laugh at these curmudgeons and wackjobs despite their bad behavior.

The latest entry into the pantheon of “Did he really do that?” is LIRR commuter John Clifford but it’s not entirely clear whether he falls into the category of amusing crank or terrifying asshole. But one thing’s for sure: Be careful if you wind up in the same train car as this 60-year-old cop-turned-lawyer. Clifford, like many of us, doesn’t like people to disturb his ride by talking on cell phones. If you egregiously start chatting away, he’ll yell at you to stop. If you don’t start, well then all hell will probably break loose. Clifford was in court yesterday in Manhattan, defending himself against charges of harassment, attempted assault and disorderly conduct stemming from an incident in which Clifford tried to get 19-year-old student Nicholas Bender to stop yapping on his phone. The Post described the incident thusly:

Clifford waved his hand at the kid, snapped his fingers in the kid’s face, and started cursing loudly, all agreed.

Clifford really blew a gasket – screaming “F- – -ing faggot!” – when the kid then suggested, comically, that Clifford himself not blow his nose and rustle his newspaper so loudly.

Clifford won his case, despite the judge’s admonition that his vigilante style of etiquette justice is inappropriate (not to mention homophobic.) The Post includes some hilarious photos of Clifford smoking his “victory cigar” and Bender shrugging off his loss in court. The best part has to be Clifford’s lament that “it’s about time we brought some civility back to the Long Island Rail Road.” Keep up the good fight, John, but ease up on the hate speech.

And it all begs the question: if cell phones cause this kind of havoc on the LIRR, what’s gonna happen when the MTA outfits the subways for cell phone service?