Is the goal not to interact?

I went to the State Fair a few weeks ago. If you know anything about our Fair you know that it deserves those capital letters.  I saw a few people there wearing headphones while there and  I was so confused.  One of the best things about the Fair is the people watching.  You can witness all sorts of off the wall fashion and odd behavior, but with headphones on you only get one half the experience because you’ll never hear those conversations. Did I miss something? Is the current goal to completely remove yourself from any given situation and not interact with anyone?

Since then I have noticed people wearing headphones: shopping for groceries, at the bus stop, at the home renovation giants, when walking around in parks with their children (some of those are watching iThings) in strollers and walking their dogs.  I have also seen these same people or their very close friends watching movies on their phones while sitting at some of the prettiest parks and lakes around.

I have some awesome music so I gave plugging in a try on a recently grocery shopping trip.  I felt highly unusual.  Almost like I was in a solitary world, but there were lots of other people who had invaded my solitary world. Everyone seemed like they were in my way.  I think this was because I couldn’t hear the nice and polite “Excuse me” of my fellow shoppers while I was plugged in.  On that trip I didn’t see anyone I know. Usually I see someone to have a quick chat with over the bananas while their child tries to hide in the cart. It wasn’t a good trip, but I did feel like I had successfully dodged the universe.

I also tried the headphone thing while I was walking my dog.  I jumped when I heard someone run past me on the path even though there were people all around because I hadn’t heard him plugged in.  I tugged my dog several times a bit harder than intended when she stopped to stiff or for a potty break.  She looked at me like I was crazy.  She might be right. I didn’t notice that the lake was flat as glass and that it carried a perfect reflection of our downtown area, but I did listen to a podcast about something that I can’t remember now.

The only place that I have been completely comfortable being unaware of other people is the gym.  I always wear headphones at the gym.  They help me to block out the grunting of that guy doing curls with terrible form or that one squeaky machine and the pounding of feet on the treadmill.  And even as I type that, I remember that I forgot my headphones last week and ran for an hour anyway.  It wasn’t that terrible.  I had several short conversations with people I would not have if I had been plugged in and I realized that some people may wear headphones so they don’t have to listen to my loud breathing.

What’s my point? You have a chance to notice lots of things you might not when you unplug and take a break from multi-tasking everything.  You might enjoy it.

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