Thursday, March 01, 2007

Moving to my own beat

One of my most notable Christmas presents was a Samsung MP3 player. I mention the brand not out of an loyalty to Samsung, or just because I work for a branding agency and want to show off how “brand-literate” I am, but because I work in an office, and indeed an industry, full of Apple geeks, for whom possession of any other type of music device than one of those Ipod thingies would be tantamount to treason. It’s my rather understated, middle class way of railing against the establishment. Actually that’s bollocks – the Ipod was just more expensive. But I digress.

The thing is, or was, that I had reached the stage that my daily commute would be immeasurably improved by being able to listen to music. Like so many others, I realised that shutting oneself off from the rest of the world is much easier when set to the soundtrack of my choice. So since the end of January (when I finally got round to putting some tunes on the thing) I have been able to count “MP3 player” amongst the portfolio of things that I must verbally namecheck before I leave the house every morning (more complicated than it sounds – like the global temperature, the slightest adjustment to the norm has had a profound effect – I’ve frequently been missing my train). And my fellow travellers have been treated to the sight of a much happier, more serene me, jacked into a pair of those little white headphones, lost in a world of my own, barely even bothering to notice when my personal space gets invaded, or someone pushes in front of me on the platform.

Which brings me to the point of this post – you don’t need to have the music at full blast. I’ve always been struck by just how loud some people have their personal music systems, and have long fantasised about removing an earphone from a neighbouring ear and saying something incredibly witty like “Would you mind turning it up a bit? I think there may be some people in the next carriage who can’t quite hear.” Of course, I’ve never had the balls, but then when you’ve been building up to saying something like that for so long, it never comes out right, does it? I had come to the conclusion, having observed, and indeed examined the eclectic musical tastes of, many of these people in the last couple of years, that earphones just aren’t very good at containing sound. But then I actually got a pair of my own. And do you know what? They aren’t bad at all. I frequently remove my earphones and hold them a decent distance from my ears to check that I am not playing anything noisy enough to disturb other people, and find that I can’t hear a thing, even when I think I’ve got it on quite loud. So I can only wonder what it must sound like inside the head, so to speak, of someone whose thumping bassline is audible from the other end of the coach.

It all puts me in mind of an incident, years ago, when I was driving a friend to a club, and she stuck the radio on so loud that the car shook – it was like being in a nightclub. It was a profoundly disturbing experience as I could not concentrate on my driving, and what’s more my ears were ringing for hours afterwards. At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man (I have just turned 30, and a friend did buy me a book called, yes “Grumpy Old Men”) what is it with these kids? Eh?

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