The Ubiquity of Headphones (and why it’s a terrible thing)

Dear Missed Meet Cute,

It’s quite rare for me to want to strike up a conversation with someone random1. I normally don’t know what to say, or if I’m intruding, or if I’m being very awkward. I can’t seem to make mundane small talk2 without either being bored out of my own mind or worrying that I’m boring the other person out of their mind.

Now, imagine my surprise when on my way home from work, I spied you, on the train in your scrubs like a baby doctor3, a nurse, an orderly, a phlebotomist, or a hospital lab technician. You even had a bit of a 5 o’clock shadow4, brown hair, and smelled really good5. We even made eye contact! All good right?

NO. A resounding NO. Why? Because you had your earbuds in. Earbuds and headphones are the number one killer of spontaneous conversations. Yes, I understand that you probably had them in to avoid having a conversation with someone rather unpleasant on the train, or to be able to ignore the man pushing a stroller around (which may or may not have had a kid in. I couldn’t tell because it was completely covered) asking for money for him and his child with Down Syndrome. But you missed me! Awesome, not so little me! I could’ve dazzled you with my wit, my stories of travel, and my terrible (but amazing) one liners and puns!

Instead, you sat there, hunched over on your phone with your earbuds in, trapped in your own little bubble of solitude. What do you headphone wearing people listen to all the time anyway? There can’t be that much music in the world to listen to over and over again, every day on your commute. A podcast maybe? Still! There is only a finite number of podcasts. Wouldn’t it be more exciting to pay attention to your surroundings? How do you even know if a car, much less another person, is coming up behind you6? What is so terrible about the world that you have to incessantly seclude yourself in your imaginary bubble? I promise that the world is not that scary or nasty all the time!

And the worst part of our very ephemeral encounter? You even held the door open for me as I came out of the same station as you.

-A very disappointed Bean.

1.I used to have the worst anxiety about talking to random people to the extent that I would rarely even ask for help or directions when lost. Doing quite a bit of traveling (some solo or mostly solo) has changed that a lot, mostly because I’d have gone a week or so without speaking otherwise.
2. This is also why I’m absolutely terrible at real networking events. I can’t seem to get the small talk out of the way to talk business with someone.
3. Not a pediatrician. I’d say pediatrician if I meant a doctor who cares for babies. Rather a doctor in training. I tend to refer to a lot of entry-level people as “babies.” As in, I have quite a few friends who are baby investment bankers.
4. Men who read this blog take note: I really like guys with a respectable 5 o’clock shadow. I’m also single.
5. Smelling good is a HUGE pre-requisite for me. I think I’ve mentioned this before.
6. This is a big one for me since I also tend to bike everywhere. I’ve had people ask me how I can bike all day without listening to music. I like living.

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