On the daily grind to work, I reckon about 50% of commuters I see have something stuck in their ears. I'm no different. I've nearly always got the headphones of my radio/mp3 player/laptop in my ears.
I've often thought that this is sad, that we all live in our own little bubble, and are not sharing our audio experience with anyone. Wouldn't life be more pleasant if we listened to the natural noises of life? The birds singing, the conversations, even the noise of the train on the track can be quite pleasant.
I'd also quite like to talk to some of the people I regularly see on the train. I share 15 hours a week with some of these people and yet I know nothing about them. If you're a train commuter I expect, like me, you have little names for people. Guy who looks like Tiger Woods, Old dude with the comb-over, Girl with the thermal coffee mug, Man with worn paperback and dreadlocks, man with the ace 'tache.
Would it be nice to know a little more about these people. To know their names, say "hi, how's your day?", "How's that book?" or "How do I grow an ace 'tache like that?" We don't have to be best friends. Just a bit of chatter to make life more interesting and enjoyable.
On health grounds it would be good to stop putting headphones in too. My friend H, an audiologist, tells me that using my headphones everyday there is a very good chance I'll be tone deaf by 50.
So all this week I have left my headphones at home, and have made a point of greeting at least one person on each journey with a quick hello, or good morning.
Most people have been pretty welcoming to this new idea. Most have said hello back. It even went so far as a three-minute conversation about our commute with one person. This is good.
One person moved seat and plugged their headphones in. No problem, stay in your bubble. I've no gripe with that.
What I have realised though, is there is a reason that people live in their own bubble with their mp3 players. And that reason is mobile phones. Almost every journey has had some loud, obnoxious arse shouting into their mobile phone. Or worse, a bunch of yoofs playing the latest choons to their friends, except it sounds like the band is playing in an exceptionally large tin dustbin.
Mobile phones are a scourge on society. I've got one, but I use it sensibly. I hate talking on the train, I whisper and make the call as quick as possible, walking to the vestibule if I can. People ask me what ring tone I've got. i don't know. It's always on vibrate. Why does everyone else need to know when my phone's ringing?
So if you were the man sitting behind me last night on the 18:30 Cardiff Central to Portsmouth Harbour service, and you were wailing into your bluetooth headset all the way from Cardiff to Bristol (except the Severn Tunnel - Ha Ha!) about "raising your game", "meeting targets", "getting the whole team involved" etc. I'd just like to say, that thanks to you, I'm putting my headphones back in, and I'll hold you personally responsible when my hearing goes. Also, I'll now never know how to grow a really great moustache.
If you've not finished work for the day, don't leave work. We don't want to hear it. You've had your warning. If I catch you again, I'm going to wish bad things happen to your family pets.
photo courtesy of tuxcomputers on flickr.com