Friday, November 02, 2007

My headphones. They saved my life.

I've riden public transportation quite a bit since coming to the Bay Area. Commuting back and forth between San Francisco and Berkeley at least 3 times a week, I've spent my fair share of time on the BART, MUNI, and various buses. These many hours sitting on trains has given me an appreciation for people who commute to work everyday. It's also assured that in the future, I will do everything in my power to live close to where I work.

I started to wonder what public transportation was like before iPods and all of today's portible electronics. Riding buses is an experience in of itself. You're smooshed into a small space with people you don't know, and would probably never spend time with outside of the bus-situation. It's awkward, amusing, interesting, and sometimes disconcerting--all at the same time.

But with half the bus listening to their iPods, you avoid a lot of these interactions. Wearing headphones is a generally well understood "Leave me be" signal. Most people won't try to spark up a long conversation with someone listening to their iPod. For example, I'm deaf in one ear. I don't actually need both earphones when listening to music. But if I'm feeling particularly anti-social on an airplane or bus, I have to put both in--just to fully register the "don't talk to me" message. It's quite effective. (It also avoids confusion when people expect me to hear them if I'm wearing just one earphone.)

Before iPods, and their ability to isolate you from your fellow passengers, did people talk to eachother more on buses? Am I missing out on potentially interesting conversations?

Perhaps. But I'm probably avoiding a lot of uncomfortable situations, too. Coming home from Berkeley on Halloween night, I saw a lot of unique characters on the BART. One of which was a girl, probably about 14 years old, "rapping" about very lewd, sexual things. I heard her through my music and, naturally, looked up to see what was going on. She noticed, asked me if I liked her song, and started singing louder. It was awkward.

But I just turned my iPod volume up and continued my reading. I suppose its nice to have the option of blocking out the rest of world. Particularly on public transportation.



Blogger Katharine said...

I use my headphones for the very same purpose. My morning commute (30 minutes on the subway) is my 'me' time. It's time for my body & brain to slowwwwly wake up, and for me to catch up on new music. And also avoid the general inane nattering of other passengers.

Headphones really save my life the most when travelling, though. If I'm travelling alone and on a bus or train, I wear headphones even when I'm not listening to anything just so strangers next to me won't talk to me :) Effective.

9:02 AM, November 12, 2007  
Blogger Lis said...

dude, didn't you ever ride the rapid or buses down to salvo freshmen year before you got an ipod? I remember many an adventures with creepy old men hitting on me while taking a swig out of their paper bag.. ah freshman year memories...

8:11 PM, November 21, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon your blog while looking for something about Amy Winehouse (don't ask me why) so I thought I'd comment. I lived in the Bay Area a few years ago (I'm actually from Iceland and I live there now) and I have ridden the BART more than once or twice. That was before the iPod era I guess.
I don't like iPods, I think they are a great barrier, socially, between people. I don't own one myself and never will, as far as I'm concerned. Although as strange as it may sound, I, like public transport a lot, however.
I like sitting there, looking out the window, getting endless ideas for a new story or a project I'm working on. Or just observing the people around me, BART is the perfect place for that. All kinds of people, from all kinds of backgrounds, of all races, the experience is just amazing. There is something magical about people, something there that makes the moment worthwhile living.

- Eyþór, Iceland

4:22 PM, November 22, 2007  

Post a Comment

<< Home