Headphones are a major tenant of most isolationist train strategies. Many of the passengers on the train are never seen them.
Headphones. Do we still use that word? Is it Earbuds now? Are earbuds an Apple trademark? Earphones? Inner ear listening devices? Beats by Dre? (I almost spelled that as Beets by Dre, which makes sense. Dr. Dre’s PhD is in gardening, after all.)
Anyway…I’ll stick with headphones.
Even if you aren’t listening to anything, they create a barrier between you and others. While reading a book, people assume that you don’t mind being bothered. But if I have headphones in? The train could be on fire and no one would bother me. The headphones don’t even have to be plugged into anything. It is especially convincing if you bite your lower lip and bob your head. A look of rhythmic agony. The expression is akin to what it would look like if you had to have an arrow removed from your leg in some backwoods cabin and you didn’t have any anesthetic, just a splash of cheap vodka to clean the wound. No headphones? Enduring the torture of rusty instrument surgery. Put headphones in? People think you’re “feelin’ it.” And that is exactly what you need to be left in peace.
Ultimately, you just have to wear headphones. Music is optional. The headphones are mandatory.
The problem exists when someone on the train doesn’t have headphones and still wants to listen to music. For example, if I want to listen to Taylor Swift on my own time with headphones in…perfectly acceptable. If I want to listen to Taylor Swift at regular volume without headphones in…completely unacceptable. Forcing anyone else to listen to your favorite, terrible music is a breach of the social contract.
Most perpetual riders inherently understand the social contract and do not subject others to their personal musical proclivities.
That percentage would be higher, if it weren’t for Ms. Jackson. Ms. Jackson gets her name from that amazing Outkast song that took the nation by storm. Ms. Jackson wears slacks that are too short and owns exclusively silk shirts. Ms. Jackson is exactly what you would imagine Kanye West’s deranged step-mother to be like.
- She loves hip hop
- She is completely out of her mind
- She doesn’t care about you. Or what you think.
If Left Eye from TLC hadn’t died, and had taken a job as a secretary at a downtown law firm once she was in her 50’s…that’s Ms. Jackson. (RIP Left Eye. Miss you, girl.)
How do I know Ms. Jackson loves hip hop? She stands in the middle of the aisle on the train and plays hip hop on her phone at an unreasonable volume. Repeating the songs that really make her move 3-5 times per morning.
How do I know Ms. Jackson doesn’t care about you or what you think? She raps aloud for all to hear, vulgarities and racial slurs reverberating the aging tin walls of the train as much as the high speeds and uneven tracks. And Ms. Jackson enunciates every rhyme from memory with perfect diction. She’s a pro.
How do I know Ms. Jackson is completely out of her mind?
It was the morning she sang Gold Digger. Uncensored. Every word. And the natives were getting restless after she started the song for the 3rd time. Something I’ve noticed about middle aged white people, they can only reasonably hear the ‘N Word’ 100 times before 7:00 am before they become confrontational.
Furtive glances were cast about the train, nominations were issued, a winner was selected. And the poor soul with the red velvet jacket spoke out against Ms. Jackson’s behavior. She just blurted it out, ripping off the communal bandaid.
“Can you please turn that music off?” She stamped her feet to emphasize the highlighted words and her slight frame vibrated, an emaciated, embittered relative of Kool-Aid Man.
With eyes opened wider than they should reasonably be able to go, Ms. Jackson turned to face her accuser and took a step toward the now trembling scarlet coat. Ms. Jackson moved the enormous whites of her eyes within one inch of the Commuter Tribe’s sacrifice. And giving a slight pause to allow terror to set in, Ms. Jackson echoed:
“Get down girl, go ‘head get down. Get down girl, go ‘head get down.”
“Get down girl, go ‘head get down. Get down girl, go ‘head.”
And no one has confronted Ms. Jackson since.