I’m talking absolute silence….quiet enough to hear a pin drop, the house creak or the dog snoring in an upstairs bedroom.
I think it’s practically impossible to experience absolute silence anymore. We’re constantly surrounded by noise – from music playing softly in elevators to the sounds of birds chirping in the trees and from honking car horns to the notification pings from your phone from your latest Facebook or Instagram post.
Noise is inevitable, but can I tell you what the most annoying noise in the world is to me?
It’s the noise that comes from people who think they’re being quiet. I’m talking about people who wear earbuds/headphones out in public with the volume jacked all the way to the max!
There’s even a popular meme about loud headphone wearers:
This annoyance stems from my daily commute to and from work. It’s about a 40-minute train ride from my New Jersey suburb to my stop in Hoboken before hopping on the PATH train to downtown NYC.
When I take the train to work I like to ride in the quiet car. Every train on NJ Transit has one. It’s usually the first car on the train for my ride in the morning and the last car on the train for my ride home back out to the ‘burbs.
I ride the quiet car because it’s the only time during my day that I’m not barraged by questions, requests or demands from my kids or co-workers. Sometimes it’s the only period of silence I get for the entire day. The quiet allows me to get my head in the game and sort out my daily priorities and tasks for both the work and home front. I also, maybe selfishly, consider it a bit of “me time, ” and I do things like read a book or play Candy Crush on my phone. I look forward to that 40-minute quiet period every day.
I also think most people who opt to sit in the quiet car are just like me. They are people looking for a little respite at the start or end of their day, looking for a brief break from the noise and demands of life.
So understandably I get pretty annoyed when, sitting in the quiet car, trying to find my zen and I suddenly find myself listening to Billboard’s Top 20, or some rap song filled with expletives I didn’t even know existed from someone wearing headphones!
I mean, what’s the point of wearing headphones when you play your music so loudly that other people can hear it? Doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of headphones?
I ask you, how loud does music have to be in order for a person to hear it and for it to sound good?
Now, do I ever ask them to turn their music down?
No, I never do because first, if I did ask them they couldn’t hear me since their music is so loud; second, since it’s the quiet car, I’m not supposed to partake in conversation and third, and the biggest reason of all, I’m a total chicken.
Instead, I prefer using the “prolonged staredown” method, meaning I just stare at the noise offender until they look up and give a shooting glance down to their smartphone and shake my head un-approvingly.
Does this approach actually work?
Well, it does turn out to be quite effective when several people on the train also happen to be staring at the person at the same time!
Most of the people I’ve given the stare down to on the train get embarrassed and turn their music down to a respectable level. I’ve even had people get up and move to a different, non-quiet car, but there are always those that just don’t care and, I’m convinced, turn their music up even louder in spite.
I know, I know, you’re probably saying “You sound like a crabby old lady!” But I’m not really. I love music. When I’m cooking in the kitchen, reading a magazine, working in my office or sitting around the living room with a glass of wine I’ve usually got music playing in the background. My personal musical preferences lean towards songs from the 70s and 80s, which remind me of my carefree youth, but I could belt out a song by Taylor Swift or Chainsmokers in a karaoke showdown!
And yes, when I was a teenager and young adult I used to crank the tunes way up on my Sony Sports “Yellow Monster” Walkman, but that was generally only in my bedroom. If I ever used my Walkman out of the house and in a place with other people, like the gym or library, I always made sure I was respectful of my noise level so as not to disturb others.
So here’s some friendly, motherly and ear-saving advice to all you loud headphone listeners — turn the volume down! You’re eventually going to go deaf or get tinnitus listening to anything – whether it be music, a podcast, talk show or sporting event – that loud for too long. You could even, gasp, turn off the music and take a moment to enjoy the silence.
But if you are going to continue to blast your music at full volume through your headphones, could you at least play some Bee Gees, Duran Duran, Eric Clapton or Depeche Mode so I can sing along?
Now it’s your turn to share. What’s your favorite type of music to listen to?
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