Pod People

It might seem odd, given my background as a recording engineer, but I don’t own an iPod or similar device. I admire their sleek and efficient design, and the sound quality is acceptable, but I haven’t got one.

The problem is the isolation they impose. When we listen to music through headphones, our sense of hearing, an essential part of our connection with our surroundings, is pre-empted for this single stream of information. I realize that this is, for many, the point, but when I am out and about in the world I simply do not like to render myself deaf, and frankly it seems bizarre to me that so many people do. Tom Friedman mentioned, in one of his columns, having seen a pedestrian listening to an iPod nearly run over by a woman who was shouting into a cellphone as she drove, and for me that about sums it up. When I’m walking the city streets, or riding the subways — or even sitting beside the ocean, or hiking in the woods — I like to be aware of what’s going on around me, and the idea of shutting down one’s hearing in this way seems awfully strange.

When I’m at home, of course, there’s no need either, because I can listen over speakers as God intended.

There is one circumstance, though, when I am sometimes glad of the isolation headphones offer, and that is air travel. For those occasions I have an excellent pair of Bose noise-cancelling cans, and I just take along a couple of CDs. Even then, though, I start to feel walled-off after an hour or two, and end up taking them off.

I’m obviously in the minority here; if you look around at the people on the street here in New York it seems that just about everyone either has those ubiquitous white wires dangling from their skulls, or is bellowing into a phone. It seems kind of sad to me, really, and almost a bit desperate — it’s as if they’d rather be anywhere than right here, right now.

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  1. the one eyed man says

    I play my ipod through my home stereo — the sound quality is awful, but it gives me the opportunity to blast out Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” when the wife is around.

    Then when I tell her that “no truer words were ever spoken,” she really goes nuts.

    Posted December 18, 2006 at 11:40 pm | Permalink
  2. MikeZ says

    I was a hold out on iPods until recently when one was given to me for Father’s Day. Frankly, I love it. However, I tend not to listen to it as much when there’s a chance of interacting with anyone and I use it for other things besides music: calendar, clock & stopwatch, notes, and moving files. Handy little device!

    – M

    Posted December 19, 2006 at 11:57 pm | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Thank you as always, gentlemen, for visiting.

    Certainly these are useful gadgets; it’s just that I have little use for them myself, not wishing to blot out the world as seems to be the goal of so many of my neighbors.

    Posted December 20, 2006 at 10:32 pm | Permalink