We all love them, we all have a pair, but do my headphones now need to match my Chuck Taylors? Strolling through the streets of Atlanta, I can’t help but think headphones are now more of a fashion statement than a means of auditory pleasure. When is it really necessary to wear headphones while shopping for your next box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch?
I completely understand the application of headphones in many environments, from exercising to writing a rant, preferably with new tracks from Foxygen, but why the hell do we need these devices while shopping or walking through major traffic? Let me now specify by throwing ear buds out of the conversation. My attention is strictly on the soap bar sized species of auditory vibrators. These creatures which should exist only in the dungeons of music studios are now coming to the surface, such as those seen at your local bus stop. I can only imagine that the bearer of these devices have the same ambitions as the unfortunate souls who were duped into 26-inch rims after the turn of the century.
Of course, there is also the possibility I’m wrong. Maybe it is necessary to blast T.I.’s Trouble Man while crossing a six lane intersection or complete that next chapter in The Casual Vacancy while grabbing pasta for the evening’s spaghetti. But fuck that! A massive car pile-up due to your lack of attention would indeed cause you some trouble, man. And madame, you’re in the way of my spaghetti sauce… please turn down J. K. Rowling for just one second! I can’t help but feel that many of my fellow non-earmuff wearing Americans share my pain. Please be kind, remove your headset, and participate for just a moment in this adventure we share called life. I do enjoy my own time in the digital realm, hence this fresh article brought to you by blankmaninc.com, though what would life be without some old-fashioned human to human contact? Perhaps WALL-E?
But I digress. I mean, they are just headphones, right? No need to worry about a silly sound-producing device that at its best provides us a relief from this three-dimensional reality. Well, I’d agree, though while browsing in a local Kroger I came upon a lady accompanied by three kids. What puzzled me was not the three kids, but the lady’s 2013 version of a headdress, Beats by Dre headphones. What was she listening to, I pondered. Could it be the new Big Boi album, as this is Atlanta and the track “CPU” from Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors is pretty jamming. Or could it be a selection from the Audible library, such as ScreamFree Parenting, though this mother did not strike me as an American Mothers’ “mother of the year” candidate. And then, like sunlight on a rainy afternoon, it hit me. This lady may not be listening to anything at all! Maybe this whole experience unfolding before me is a mother that has bought into the idea of headphones as a fashion piece due to some effective marketing. And wouldn’t you know, Dr Dre has successfully found another way to again pull money from the masses, despite not releasing a studio album of his own in over 13 years. As if Dr Pepper, Coors Light, Chrysler, and St Ides endorsements were not enough.
As I walked out of Kroger that day I felt a bit relieved to conclude we are still not quite within Ray Kurzweil’s idea of Singularity. But what happens if the headphones are turned on? What if our daily human interactions are reduced to screens, speakers, and microphones? How close are we really to adopting Google Glass technology? And if we do, will the glasses ever come off? You might say, yes, of course they will! And I say true, but only when we develop CPU chips that can be embedded within our DNA. Which reminds me, don’t we track animals with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips? These questions again remind me of the title of Kurzweil’s book: The Singularity Is Near. But hey, that’s all silly Sci-Fi talk, right? Besides, they are just headphones.