But what we're talking about (at least, what I'm talking about) is quietly talking on the phone. Not yelling. Not being obnoxious. A quiet discussion.
There are a lot of things that could be distracting on a train to other people. There are some people that are distracting just by their very appearance. They're not rude for looking the way they do. Sometimes distractions happen when you're around other people. The trick is to learn how to deal with the things that are distracting you (I'm talking about the ones that are simple distractions - like the person across from you having a very quiet conversation on a phone - not loud ones like someone across from you yelling into a phone).
I hear what you're saying, and I do agree. My only concern is that from what I've seen, too many people just don't even make an effort to conduct their conversations quietly because no precedent seems to have been set to recommend it, and I fear that none ever will be; also, it may even be a moot point because people on the phone are just inclined to talk louder than people conversing in proximity, whether because of the connection or background noise, when arguably, they should actually be talking more sotly in order to be less disturbing. If at certain times of my commute, louder voices are used between people conversing with one another in person, it's usually in keeping with the prevailing atmosphere in the situation itself, and if voices need to be lowered or paused to accommodate things like announcements etc., this naturally occurs; meanwhile, the phone-talker, who is cognitively incapable of paying attention to both the conversation and the surroundings, remains--like Abby's letter-writer--blissfully convinced that he or she is not disturbing people. For this reason (I assume), in the Quiet Cars on my train, quiet in-person conversation is permitted, but cell phone conversations are prohibited.
I am trying to find ways of putting up with it. It's just so difficult! Also, these efforts are focused on making myself deaf with a combination of earplugs under headphones with music cranked up, which isn't really in my interest, as then I won't be aware of my own surroundings. Some serious meditative practice is in order next...that could be good for me in the long run in any case!