I'm writing this while riding in an American Airlines flight from Texas to California. I don't want to be writing anything; I want to be sleeping. I've been awake since way before dawn and now it's mid-afternoon; I've enjoyed a glass of Merlot with an airline snack of cheese* and I'm ready for an inflight snooze.
But I can't sleep.
I can't sleep because the woman two seats away is playing a game with her iPhone. The mobile-device-based entertainment is making tick-tock noises accompanied by a faint rhythmic clatter; every now and again, a robotic-like voice intones "Sweet" and "Tasty," apparently a kind of electronic Pavlovian encouragement. I this woman is playing Candy Crush, but I'm not positve…as I've never played the game. The last iPhone game I played with any enthusiasm was Angry Birds, though now I'm playing Words with Friends, which I usually play at home. I like games and this is not about that.
The woman, who is about my age, is not wearing earphones nor does she have the sound turned off. She's oblivious to the sonic nuisance she's creating, ensconced in a comforting and self-indulgent cocoon.
This woman is seated next to her husband, who is reading an AARP magazine. The couple seems normal and civilized in every other way, but she's equally and astoundingly unaware that the inane sound effects emanating from the marvel of technology in her hands is creating a situation where I can do little but sublimate my aggravation by writing this piece.
But that single instance of antisocial behavior is not the only reason I'm writing this. This problem is epidemic.
The general obliviousness of iPhone users is regularly obvious on the Green Line. Loud phone conversations are so common as to be ignorable, but it amazes me that people can listen – and make us all listen – to their favorite music, turned up, without earphones. I'm an older person and so perhaps over-sensitive, but I am taken aback by blaring abrasive, racist and obscene lyrics, especially when children are present, which they usually are.
So I guess the question is, what can be done in situations like this? Should one endure the electronic sounds and guttural utterances and just wait for the ride to be over? Should one say something and thus risk even greater social tension or ugliness? Or should one just tune it out using, perhaps, a good set of earplugs?
I take the third of these approaches. My earplug of choice is Mack's, made of silicone for swimmers, and designed to form a tight seal with the ear hole. You can buy them at Walgreen's, and I highly recommend them.
Until the world becomes more civilized – which is not likely to happen any time soon – ear plugs may be the only solution to the free range rude who roam the land and skies.
*Obligatory food reference
Answer Book 2019
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