Everyone in New York City wears headphones. (Perhaps they do this all over the country, or all over the world, but I didn’t notice it until I came to live in NYC.) This very normal habit irritates me to no end. It’s not a big deal, I guess. But, like a tiny grain of sand in my shoe, it is persistently annoying.
Is everyone so busy that they have no time to listen to music (or podcasts) except while traveling from point A to point B? Are we trying to avoid the tedium of public transportation by distracting ourselves? Creating out own little cocoons to avoid interacting with the smelly panhandler, the lost tourist, the embarrassingly unattractive but interested found man? Face it, people, you chose to live in the most crowded city in the United States of America. (At least, I assume you chose it. If you didn’t, you should definitely move to a cheaper place. I mean it — right now!)
I’m the kind of cheerily annoying extrovert who is perpetually energized by interacting with people. Strangers are just friends I haven’t met yet. True, I don’t thoughtlessly start chatting with a stranger behind me in the restroom queue. But I have been known to do so after considered thought. (And yes, there is always a restroom queue in NYC. At least for women. It doesn’t matter where you are.)
I love interacting with my environment — staring more than polite, listening to strangers’ conversations with avid attention, absorbing all of what is none of my business. I’ve read that there are no boring experiences, only ones to which we do not pay sufficient attention. That’s something that can be well tested on urban commutes. So I’ll continue to explore the hidden joys of crowds, and keep my radio time restricted to when I’m alone in my house of car. Even if that is not the American way!