Monday, November 28, 2011

On: Turn Phone Off

It's happening more and more: people using their phones as walkie talkies in public, not only on the subway, it turns out, but also in the lobby of my building this morning. So now we're all privy to not just one side of the conversation, but both, often at loud volumes. Or we all inherit an unwanted dj blasting crap music, the only kind that ever seems to be blasted out of these shiny tinny devices, ain't it a shame?

What makes people okay with doing something they must, on some level, realize is disturbing everyone around them -- something with no higher purpose, other than to disengage from others -- meanwhile involving them all the more? Yet what's considered rude is to say anything about it, like "Do we all have to listen to that?"

I will admit to heckling a {terrible} harmonica player with that line on the Long Island Railroad, after ten long minutes of it, to get him to stop. He did -- after I used the line three times, hidden several rows back from faux blues man, behind those tall LIRR seats that can be just ideal for blaming the person in front of you for any undesirable comments you utter. Also, I was hungover.

Wouldn't you know it, though? Right after he gave it a rest, one of those portable music players erupted from the guy right across from him, who clearly heard negative feedback but went ahead and defied some harpy's evil bid to censor him anyway. A real freedom rider. I didn't have the stamina for another heckle in the key of both polite and bitchy, by then.

There's something sad and infantile to me about insisting on playing your music or playing walkie talkie in public transit spaces. In a park, I'm all for it. On the street? That's what the street was made for. It makes more sense to me in the subway, but I find it offensive, unlike musicians or random speakers or even inquisitive freaks. If human oddity makes you uncomfortable, well, it used to be that I could genuinely say you're living in the wrong place, but now that's less and less true thanks to Lord Toad and his smug, vapid, mean little apostles. The Machines.

Yes, new millennium, crap sound products in confined transportation spaces piss me off. And then I can't help but wonder what's next: airplane walkie talkie? Whereas I'd laugh if someone got up and starting singing on a plane, particularly if they were drunk, if someone started with that crap walkie talkie phone sound, that high-pitched bleep over and over, I'd be annoyed, partly because that sound makes my leg want to kick out and partly because it's putting shit that's not there over the people who are -- and are stuck there, unless they opt out of the car in motion by way of the subway door, which gives me the creeps. (What if I tripped?) (I've watched too many strange train films.) At any rate, I still think it's much harder to resist the urge to be loud when you're inebriated, or even just excited, than it is to simply put some damn headphones on.

Bleep. Bleep. Bleeeeeeeep. Sweet Jesus! Did their mommies and daddies not explain to them that they are not the center of the universe, that manners matter? People scoff at that last point as some sort of archaic, passed-over notion, thereby ensuring etiquette's continued irrelevance, ain't it a shame? And tsk, look how far we've fallen from the reign of those guys who would walk around with boom boxes standing on their shoulders. Their music was gooood. I hope the break-dance kids can still save us.

Or will we all soon be engaged in constant noise wars, performing but not performers, out in public like we're at home in private, clutching our respective devices and activating them in the "me me me only" battles? If I cover my eyes with both hands, will the sounds go away? Headphones...remember those, the main way people used to listen to music in public just five minutes ago?

Where's my harmonica!


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