Friday, January 7, 2011

Airplane jitters and earbuds

I was flying to Maine Sunday. The plane was full, as they so often are these days. A young man had the middle seat -- he appeared to be of college age. We're doing all the usual stuff: finding our seatbelts, getting stuff pushed all the way under the seat, and so on. I start to notice this guy could NOT sit still. He joggled his knees, drummed his fingers on his thighs, shifted in the seat. Nervous flyer? Needing a smoke (of one sort or another)? I'm working the crosswords and sudokus in the airline magazine, then pull out my novel. This guy jitters on.

Well, we take off and climb away from the airport. The captain turns off the seat-belt sign. My neighbor whips out a smart-phone thing and can barely get the ear buds in fast enough. Right away he goes still.

I couldn't help but wonder if we are becoming unable to entertain ourselves. We need constant passive input. (Or not-so-passive input -- we've all seen a pedestrian step off the curb, oblivious to traffic, cellphone hand to ear.) But it's the need for constant music/podcasts/whatever, in every situation: while jogging or biking, when it can be very dangerous on city streets or deserted ones for that matter; driving, when distraction can cause bad things happen fast, and to lots of people; in the supermarket; sunbathing.

I hear birds, the wind in trees, children laughing. I people-watch and have casual conversations with some of them or exchange ordinary courtesies. I read, and the batteries never go dead on my paperback, although they might on the light.

Oh, well, at least I didn't have to listen to his music, or that tinny buzz when it leaks out of headphones.

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