Sunday, January 11, 2004

Post modern faux pas of the day

I got a little MP3 player as a "free gift" when I got my Dell laptop before Christmas. I am finding I use it a lot. I program myself a playlist, and I then listen to music as I walk down the street. Programming a playlist for your life is something like I expect it is to put together a soundtrack to a movie, only harder, although the consequences are less pad if you get it wrong. There is nothing terribly unusual about this activity at this point. If you look at people carefull, you will see lots of them with earphones coming out of their clothes. (In Guell Park today I saw a young couple lying down in the sun, with each using one of the two earpieces coming out of an MP3 player. How cute, but it probably doesn't work well with those early stereo recordings where they put the singing on one channel and the music on the other. Also, I see a market opportunity for MP3 players with multiple earphone jacks. But I digress).

A consequence of this (and also of hands free earpiece based mobile phone setups) is that it is far less unusually to see people talking out loud when there is nobody there, and being in apparent worlds of their own when walking down the street. For those of us capable of being in apparent worlds of our own, already, this is a fine thing. We are now closer to the core of global culture than we once were. But, as other people are finding, we are not as much in a world of our own as we may appear. We can come back to the world when it is necessary. Turning the music off as need be is something we get very used to doing.

Except when we don't. One should try to avoid doing what I did in Parc Guell this morning. I was wandering around and I had the MP3 player on, and I thought it would be nice to get a photograph of me in front of one of the more interesting sculptures. So I asked a man to take a photo for me. Now, when I ask people things like this, it normally happens in places where I do not speak the language and I have to get by through gestures and the like. So I did this, it worked fine, and we were making progress at getting photos taken. However, after a couple of minutes I realised that the man was talking to me, and that I had left my music on and so could not hear him. (I had not conciously been aware that I had left the music on, even though I could still hear it. My mind had just not realised there was a need to turn it off and so had not). When I turned it off I realised he was speaking to me in English. However, because I had not expected him to speak English, my mind had not thought to turn the music off as it now automatically does in cases where I expect a reply. I was of course embarrassed by this and I apologised, although he did not seem to mind. But walking off I thought it was curious. The mind plays strange tricks, sometimes.

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