Alex Stephenson THE MACGUFFIN MEN: The Headphone Incident

Sometimes I go out. In one of my more recent excursions into the world outside of my DVD collection, I lay my coat on a chair in the bar I was at, not really thinking much about it. Since this chair was in fact a chair, somebody sat on my coat. About 20 minutes after I noticed this, I remembered something that was a bit troubling, but since it was probably about 1:30am by this point, I was in no rush to fix the situation.

The damage was done; all I could do was hope for the best. But when it was time to leave and I grabbed my coat, the results were the worst: the headphones I had put in my sleeve for safekeeping had been broken. It turns out that holding plastic headphones in a fabric coat sleeve and then putting said sleeve on a device made for humans to sit on is not a particularly smart idea. I probably should have just kept them around my neck. You live, you learn, I suppose.

I have been a dedicated headphone wearer for over a decade now. Throughout high school, I carried a backpack pretty much everywhere, and that was more to hold my collection of Talib Kweli’s discography than it ever was to hold my sloppily scrawled notes on Otto von Bismarck. I walk everywhere, so music (or stand-up comedy, or now podcasts) always seemed like a logical addition to make those walks more enjoyable. I still wear a pair of headphones everywhere I go unless I know I will be with a friend for the entire duration of the trip. When I worked for the Crown Attorney, I would saunter into the courthouse every day wearing a shirt, a tie, and oversized headphones. I generally try to avoid doing things that would be considered uncouth, but in a situation where being without headphones is the alternative, I ignore these concerns with couthness.

I don’t recall headphone-wearers being too common in high school, although that number increased over time as we got jobs and the disposable income that came with them. These days though, by my calculations (read: counting people on a couple different subway cars) there is a much higher number of people that wear headphones while traveling or running errands, and these people aren’t all of a similar age to me. No longer is the use of a personal music device restricted to the youth of the world; I suspect that trustworthy-looking gentleman in turtlenecks had something to do with this. Once adults learned how to work an iPod and realized it allowed them to listen to Gordon Lightfoot wherever they went, they were in. And for years, whenever I would see somebody with headphones on, I would always wonder about what they might be listening to. But now when I see a headphone-wearer sitting across from me, I tend to think about why they’re listening at all.

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