I’m writing this blog post from a public space. I often enjoy listening to music while I write – I put on Pandora’s “Today’s Alternative Radio” station and am rewarded by music that is generally upbeat and unsurprising. It’s not inspiring, but that means that it’s not distracting.
But just now when I was trying to put this music on, it wasn’t coming from my headphones. Instead, it was coming from the computer.
For me, this is a nightmare scenario. I am playing music and people can hear it. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a person on the bus plays music loud enough on their headphones that I can hear it. The small, tinny rhythm makes it difficult for me to focus on anything else, and I can’t turn up my music loud enough to block it or I’ll be an offender too!
This public space has some regulars, and one of them is an older lady who listens to the news on her computer without any headphones. It enrages me. I steam about the lack of awareness. Doesn’t she see that other people are trying to work here? Does she not care?
So anyway, having music come out of my computer puts me in exactly the same category of rude distractors that I judge. The hunter becomes the prey!1
What’s worse about this is that, usually, this is an error in the order of operations. If music isn’t playing in my headphones, it’s usually because I plugged them in before logging into my account. But this time, I’d plugged them into the wrong port – they were in the mike port.
Here’s why this is terrifying: I was watching tutorial videos about Python for about an hour this morning. Since then, I got up, taking my headphones, and got lunch. So, it’s not necessarily certain that I’ve been playing Python tutorials for an entire group of people today – but there’s this little crumb of doubt now. A persistent voice, whispering, “But what if you plugged your headphones in incorrectly this morning too?”
I like to think someone who tell me if I had.
I’d like to ask someone whether I did. But I don’t know anyone here well enough to voice this question, especially since it betrays that I put little stock in my own perception of reality. So what if I believed I was listening to headphones this morning? Isn’t it possible that it was playing out loud?
The uncertainty of others’ perceptions is something that troubles me nearly as much as the possibility that I might’ve been irritating everyone around me. There are an awful lot of questions about what other people perceived that we never get answers to.
Maybe our best bet is to be Ira Glass and the crew of This American Life? They ask friends and family what they perceived or how they felt and then put it on the radio. I’ll come back to this idea in another post.
1. This, in itself, is a good reason not to be so fucking judgmental all the time. You never know when you’re going to err, and if you turn the intense laser beam of your judgment on yourself, you’re going to get burnt.↩