17 June 2009

The Human Connection: Unplugged

How we treasure ~ and admire ~ the people who acknowledge us!
~ Julie Morgenstern

hen one takes public transportation on a regular basis, one begins to notice a strange phenomenon: roughly 99.9% of one’s fellow passengers have wires growing out of their heads. As a staunch Doctor Who fan, visions of Cybermen spring into the imagination. On more than one occasion, I have found myself being slightly annoyed with those whose MP3 players (which are attached to said wires) have been turned up so loud that I can hear a distinct yet still vague beat ~ but no melody and no words. When one is trying to catch a snooze between stations, this is highly bothersome. But there is more here than meets the ear.

One of the cardinal (and unspoken) rules of riding the metro is to never make eye contact and heaven forbid don’t speak to anyone either! But even though these rules are understood by all, there is a level of non-verbal communication that still exists; some semblance of connection remains.

Put the headphones on and this tenuous thread is broken. How does one connect with someone who not only truly cannot hear you, but who is a million miles away in thought?! Plugging one’s ear with headphones seems as anti-social as plugging one’s ears with one’s fingers. I should know ~ I tried it today. Everyone else was doing it, why not me? An added incentive was a new pair of headphones and a replacement USB jack for my iPod Shuffle. (I misplaced the original docking station ~ it is lost in the Black Hole of my room for another three years I am sure!)

Everyone knows how much I adore music ~ it is more then the air I breathe. I could not live without it. But saying “Good morning” to the bus driver with an echo in my ear and keeping my eyes averted the whole commute (as is proper, you know!) I felt strangely disconnected from my surroundings. I wondered: “Is this how those other 99% feel too?” But then why continue to plug one’s ears and consequently one’s mind? Perhaps they have just become accustomed to the disconnection. Or perhaps they are already disconnected from themselves and their surroundings in other areas of their life, so this one does not strike them as odd. Or yet again, maybe they enjoy being slightly removed from the situation at hand. Now, I am not saying that exude effervescent sanguinity on either my morning (are you serious!?) or my evening (I once missed my stop because I was so exhausted I fell asleep!) commute. And there were days in the recent past when I wished with the fervency of a Ralphie Parker that I had my iPod with me to drown out the obnoxious Valley Girl conversations surrounding me. (What is it with that?! Where is Henry Higgins when you need him!?)

Now I am not so sure. For all the annoying noises or hair-pulling conversations, there is something to be said for staying connected, being aware of one’s surroundings and acknowledging one’s fellow travelers.
Otherwise, we become just big machines plugged into smaller ones.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
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