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The Demise of an American Tradition

Walking back home across College Green this afternoon, I encountered someone whom civility demanded I hail and for whom I removed an earbud from my left ear.

“Hi, _______. How are you?”

“Hi, Johnnie. Not bad. Listening to something new?”

“Not new. Old.”

“Is it something good?”

I looked skyward to signal thoughtful debate because DEVO’s ”Race of Doom” had shuffled in and while it’s a brilliant commentary on the futility of competition in a materialist society, good depends on mood and I had been deciding whether to skip to the next random track. “Mm, not bad,” and thinking about my interlocutor, “It's OK.”

“Do you have lots of good stuff in there?”

I sense an agenda that has nothing to do with me. “Some. I have it on shuffle.”

“So you're a victim . . .” at which point I signaled the conversation was over by turning away.

“See you later.”

“Bye . . . and enjoy, or not . . .”

I should have told the truth, that I listen to my iPod as prophylaxis against conversations with the socially inept. end of article



ha HA! But you flagged this person down!! If you didn't want to have an inane conversation, why did you pop out an earbud?

I realize that seeing this person signaled the potential for good conversation (and you make it a point to mention that this is a "[. . . ] friend", which also indicates the potential for meaningful banter [however oxymoronic that phrase might be]), but perhaps being in a relaxed setting, outside, nice day, you're rocking-out to New Traditionalists, or whatever -- perhaps this person was just trying to overcome the awkward hump of not having spoken with you in a while. Or maybe they were really interested in what you have to say about music in general. Or maybe they didn't want to talk about anything important. Isn't just that moment of connection and acknowledgement a good enough thing in and of itself?

But you're right: it is a drag when you expect to have a great conversation with someone and it just belly-flops. I dunno. All I'm sayin' is if somebody came up to me, started a conversation, and then turned away abruptly while I was in the middle of answering a question s/he asked me, I might think twice about having a casual chat with them again.


ha HA! But you flagged this person down!! If you didn't want to have an inane conversation, why did you pop out an earbud?

I removed my earbud out of politeness. I knew the conversation would be strained at best. I did not expect to be insulted out of hand. You bring up some good points though. I will think about my contribution to that momentary and complete failure of communication.