Earbuds: Status Update of the Jetways

December 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve lived in New York City, Boston and Los Angeles, so I’d say I’m pretty well versed in public travel. I think I’ll even count Michigan State’s Cata-Bus too. If anyone has seen a co-ed puking on the way to their 8am class they know it’s just as bad, if not worse than the sex offender jerking off under the NY Times Sunday Edition on the 1/9 uptown train.

While I was living in Manhattan I was visited by a hometown redneck who was afraid to hold on to the hand rail or sit on the seats of a subway. He mentioned it was as disgusting as licking a sneeze guard in the produce section of the local grocer. Well, I guess if you put it that way, but you’ll get over that really quickly when you have to get from point A to point B during rush hour in 90 degree heat with 100% humidity or the opposite extreme, 2ft snow drifts and below zero wind chills. Hoofing it just isn’t an option at that point. For a buck 75ish I’ll ride with my head in some dude’s armpit to not have to sit in traffic. I say this after residing in Los Angeles for the past four years.

A lot of people exaggerate about a lot of things in tinsel town, but I promise you, everything they say about the traffic is true. There is nothing more mind numbing then sitting in one of six lanes in the 405 rush hour parking lot. If I didn’t have the three radio stations programmed to the three buttons that actually work in my car, I would have jumped off the mountain to certain death two years ago. Music is essential to tolerate the insanity of bumper-to-bumper, four mile and hour creep one must endure from the valley to the beach. I live by the beach because I want to already be there on the weekend, I don’t want make the hour and a half journey on my day off to pay 30 dollars in parking. My choice, not yours and I’ll complain about the weekday commute if I want to.

Anyway, if you think about it music is imperative for most solo travel regardless of the vehicle. There is a lot of stress that can build up while your waiting for your turn to get there. The earbud is a fantastic invention almost as amazing as the bobby pin. Discrete and miniature, the earbud will not mess your hair, fits in your purse or pocket, and provides hours of entertainment for your relaxation when navigating through rough terrain. Like at the gym, when some shmooley wants to chitchat and is not paying attention to the epic eye  roll you just gave him as a context clue. Or when riding the subway when you just don’t have time to stop and give directions to a non-English speaking tourist. If you keep your focus ten yards ahead with the ‘buds in you’re untouchable. I recently discovered  the gravity of my dependence on these wonderful audible nuggets when I FORGOT my ipod at home on a cross-country flight over the holidays. That’s 4½+ hours alone with my inner monologue. Now I know why solitary confinement is such a ruthless punishment. Fortunately for me, I find myself pretty hilarious.

When you travel by airplane you never know who you’ll fall asleep next to, much like welcome week your freshmen year of college. You run into a lot of unseasoned communal travelers who want to discuss whatever it is they find so amazing about traveling. A lot of talk about tiny shampoos and walking through security barefoot. The earbuds are the status updates of the jetways: Not Up For Conversation with Perfect Stranger. It’s like when you place your napkin over your drink at the bar while you walk away to use the restroom or smoke a cig. It’s not really stopping the roofie from entering your drink, but at least the bartender knows you’ll return to pay your tab. And with the earbuds out, you are signifying you are open to “cheerful dialogue.” Stormin’ has a great story about a cat lady she had some “cheerful dialogue” with, but I’ll commission her to write that one for you guys later.

To me I thought this was the only real significance the earbuds have in air travel, but after being deprived of this security blanket, I’ve learned it eases the mental pain in flying. I was extremely irritated at every detail of the experience; it definitely ruined my mellow. Once I realized I was without ‘buds, I formulated a plan. I had carried on a novel along with paper and pen, and with any luck I’d have an inflight movie. As fate would have it, my luck ran out after I breezed though security in ten minutes during peak holiday travel times. I was then doomed to a middle seat with no modern entertainment. At least before all this technology you were able to smoke on flights and were rewarded a tv dinner.

I nestled in next to valley girl who didn’t look a day over eighteen with a diamond the size of Barbra Streisand’s nose. And just like Barb’s snoz, it seemed to follow me with its eye. She rummaged through her Loui Vuitton bag and I tried to count the rocks on her wedding band, there were at least six. Prices must be outrageous if evem daddy’s little girl can’t get in first class. She started waving her iphone about complaining aloud to no one in particular about not having service. I didn’t even want to dare ask if she was speaking to me lest I get those condescending princess eyes. I spared myself and just let her wonder aloud like a homeless person. Once she got her US Weekly she quieted down about her lack of cellular reception. Got to love trashy entertainment magazines, pacifiers for women. Because, don’t get me wrong, I love a who-looks-like-shit-in-a-bikini story or a shoplifting scandal just like the next girl.

And touching my other shoulder, reading the exact same magazine, was a seemingly mild mannered woman who overate her emotions not much older than myself, not wearing any sort of rings. As we started down the runway and she revealed a giant bag of prescriptions. Health problems perhaps? My only hope was that whatever pill she took would keep her from barfing on me. I have a childhood fear of puke ever since kindergarten when a little girl upchucked inches away from Betty and me while we were building a Lego tower.

So there we were all in a row: small, medium, and large. Both of them were buried in their celeb sex scandals and publicized philanthropy as I brought out my novel. I could almost hear the collective gasp, “a chapter book!” Right before take off the trophy wife passed out and started snoring and my other companion started viciously tapping her foot and clutching her perfectly manicured nails on the armrest. Wow, fantastic reading atmosphere for me. And when I say perfectly manicured nails, I mean I was envious. I would rather take my chances in a collision then ruin such a good set by white knuckling a handle. Afraid of flying much?

The panic subsided as we reached our cruising altitude and Shakes-a-lot zonked out as well. I was the only one who partook in the complementary refreshments, which I found to be a bit skimpier than usual. I have a routine for this particular flight to avoid being over charged. I eat a large meal at home before I leave for the airport then I choose to drink bloody mary mix as my libation which is given to me in a large can with little interruption of my music. Pretty sure the stewardess would rather you keep your earbuds in so you say as little to her as possible. That’s how they stay so sunny in a miserable job. The bloody and two packets of peanuts gets me to my destination. However, this time I received about 6oz of my beverage in a plastic cup and about four mini pretzels. WTF? The guy behind me got a full can of cranberry juice, I looked back to check. He also did get hosed for 7 bucks in exchange for the pleasure of four baby carrots and a thimble of ranch dressing. None the less, beverage envy.

It wasn’t long before Sleeping Beauty awoke and started complaining aloud to herself again. As I felt sorry for the person who had to actually listen to her everyday, Nervous Nelly flew awake when we hit turbulence during our final descent. Just observing her terror almost convinced me the plane was going down. All I could think about was how I would have normally been listening to Zeppelin streaming through my ‘buds getting pumped up to land, to effortlessly walk through the terminal like a triumphant slow motion scene of an action movie. In my daydream I’m always a sexy super spy with ninja skills and flawless hair bouncing in my wake.

Damn my over active imagination and that feeling you get leaving the house knowing you’ve forgotten something. Leaving the ipod behind is certainly a Gen-Y issue, must we always be entertained by some super gadget? In a different generation, I could have been a crossword puzzler, a chatty cathy, or a sudoku solver instead of a technology junkie going through withdrawal from earbuds. I started to get the shakes just thinking about it. Oh well, I’m sure this feeling won’t last: I have a short attention span, I’m an internet baby.

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