Login | June 22, 2017

Earbud purgatory

PETE GLADDEN
Pete’s World

Published: May 15, 2017

Some of you are not going to like this. So minus any preambles or hesitations I’m going to take a whack at the hornet’s nest. I detest ear buds.

Earbud use currently transcends race, creed, color, age and political affiliation. Earbuds are worn everywhere, in any situation, at any time. Yet despite they’re universal appeal, they have the potential to stupefy and disengage us from virtually any activity. They can dull our senses, blunt our reality, and blur our thought. Call me an old fart, label me a curmudgeon, but that’s my contention.

It’s taken about 10 years for me to build up such a high level of contempt for this device, and as I look back I have to concede that my disdain has emanated from two very specific areas - areas which happen to be very near and dear to my heart: public and wilderness recreational settings.

These environments are where earbud use has raised my contempt-O-meter to a Spinal Tap level of 11 out of 10.

So let me begin with the first, earbud use in public recreational settings, i.e., parks, multi-use trails, recreational facilities, public roadways and thoroughfares etc.

Now I’m speaking from personal experience here, so don’t get the idea I’m presenting some kind of late breaking news.

Anyway, I just cannot tell you how common it is for me to encounter individuals out there who are wearing earbuds.

And I’m talking while they’re hiking, biking, running, dog-walking, weight-lifting, whatever.

Matter of fact, nowadays nearly all the people I encounter in public recreational settings are sporting buds.

Problem is a good deal of these individuals have their music or cell phone conversations turned up so loud that they’ve basically tuned out the rest of the universe.

And herein lies my rub, because sometimes no amount of shouting, cajoling, whistling, screaming, bell ringing and gesticulating will snap them out of their digitally induced dumb-dumb world.

What transpires is old sourpuss Pete trying to pass them, and concurrently trying to notify them, as they’re either smack dab in the middle of the trail/path/lane; or zig-zagging from side to side; or leash-manacled to a pet and strung out across the entire thoroughfare.

Now there’s a plethora of situations I could describe, but I trust you visualize the basic scenario.

Sometimes my warnings are heard and catastrophes are averted. But other times I could shout through a megaphone and nary a word’s perceived.

Thus far, in those latter situations, I’ve been lucky not to be involved in an accident. But I know others who have. Which makes me believe that common sense seemingly goes out to lunch with some of these earbud aficionados.

Unfortunately such actions impact not only their safety, but my safety as well. So I say to you “tune out-turn up” earbuders: Show us of the naked-ear minority some courtesy, and PLEASE dial it down.

My second earbud irritant occurs in wilderness settings.

Now this irks me more as a conundrum than it does as a safety issue.

And I guess since I’m closer to neolith than I am to techie, I just don’t understand the use of buds in the backcountry, like when canoeing, kyaking, backpacking, cycling, etc.

In this case I contend that the earbuds disengage you from the very environment you’re endeavoring to infiltrate.

I mean think about it, there you are, with the birds singing, the wind whistling, the insects buzzing, the animals bantering, the storm approaching, while you’re jamming out to Bruno Mars. Really?

Has this act of auditory disengagement become a routine component of today’s recreational experience?

Heck, integral to my love of recreational activities is my mind’s ability to sense the sounds associated with them, like my steady breathing when I’m running, like my wheels singing as I’m cycling, like the wind whistling through the crags when I’m mountaineering, like carabiners clicking and clanking while I’m rock climbing, and like the swoosh of water as I’m canoeing.

Those are sounds that define the activity I’m participating in. They’re acoustic affirmations of my locomotion. Yup, those are the sounds that tell me how great it is to be alive.


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