Not all of us want to be tuned-out iPod people

April 07, 2005|By KEVIN COWHERD

LET ME take a moment to address the many people I know - friends, family members, colleagues - who have joined the Cult of the iPod and now will not shut up about how cool, life-affirming, soul-fulfilling, etc. these things are.

Naturally, I am happy for all of you.

But you may be surprised to know that not all of us want to live every moment of our lives in a cocoon of blaring music.

Not all of us want to sit at our office computer terminals, bopping our heads to an invisible beat, a blissed-out expression on our faces.

Not all of us want to huff and puff on gym treadmills with yards of dangling white wires slapping our T-shirts and running shorts.

When others talk to us, not all of us want to first hold up an index finger, the universal sign for "Wait a sec," then make a big show of removing our earphones so we can hear.

Why, some of us even enjoy extended periods of silence, which we use to think about things.

What kinds of things?

Oh, you know. Work things, relationship things, things like that.

Things on which you'd sort of like to concentrate without a wall of noise from 50 Cent crashing around you.

Quite frankly, when we listen to you prattle on and on about your iPod, we start to worry about you.

See, we are not quite as fascinated as you with the Gospel of the iPod: How in the beginning, there was the original iPod, and the original iPod begat the iPod mini, which begat the iPod shuffle, until the Great God Macintosh decreed there should also be an iPod photo, as well as the iPod U2 special edition and blah, blah, blah.

Also, we tend not to get caught up in all the breathless speculation about what hi-tech breakthroughs await all of civilization when the next version of iPod is unveiled.

Look, it's a music player, OK?

It's not the cure for cancer.

There's also this: We don't understand why you spend hours and hours online looking for cool accessories for your iPod, such as that nifty little iPod holster so many of you wear on your belts, or the iPod camera connector, iPod travel pack, etc.

Finally - and I don't want you to take this personally - we are sick and tired of hearing how many millions of songs your iPod can hold.

By the way, what is the exact figure now?

Forty thousand?

Two hundred million?

Fourteen billion?

Well, whatever it is, who cares?

Who's got time to listen to that much music?

OK, maybe if the average person lived to be 700 years old and listened to music morning, noon and night, you could listen to that many songs.

But otherwise, that's a bit of overkill, isn't it?

Anyway, it seems to me that the music is only part of the reason you people are so willing to plunk down 300 bucks for an iPod.

The other part is: It gives you a refuge from the outside world.

Slip in those earphones, and suddenly you're moving through life in your own private little glass submarine.

The boss isn't barking orders and making you miserable.

The teacher isn't all over you about your homework.

Your mom isn't screaming at you to pick up your clothes and clean your room.

It's just you and the music, and nothing else seems to matter.

OK, fine. Suddenly the whole iPod thing doesn't sound so bad.

Except ... it can be.

On too many levels, the self-cloistering of so many of our citizens feels vaguely unsettling.

Case in point: A busy gas station during morning rush hour.

I'm in line to pay the cashier before pumping, because God forbid anyone pumps first these days.

The guy at the front of the line is iPoding heavily. The white earphones are the dead giveaway. He hands the cashier a bill and says: "Ten bucks."

"What pump you at, hon?" the cashier asks.

The guy doesn't answer. He just stands there nodding and smiling.

The cashier tries again.

"What pump?"

Again, the guy says nothing. He nods and smiles, nods and smiles.

This time the cashier shouts "WHAT PUMP?!" loud enough to be heard in Ohio.

Only then does the guy remove his earpieces and say: "Pump 4."

I'm sorry. But in a just society, that simply can't be tolerated.

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