The Sony Walkman first came out in 1979. For those of you who don’t know, the Sony Walkman was one of the first devices that allowed you to listen to the radio or take your cassette tapes and play them in a device that you could “walk” with or carry with you as you did normal daily things. Each Walkman came with their own headphones which meant that you could listen to your music and not bother anyone else. It also meant that you could listen to your music and not listen to what was going on around you. In other words, the Sony Walkman made it easier for you to escape into the world of your own, where what you wanted to listen to was all that mattered.
In time you would see people wearing their Walkmans (or similar de- vices) while they were exercising or going for a walk. You would see people wearing them on the bus or in waiting rooms of dentists and doctors. You would sometimes see people wearing them while they were gardening, or vacuuming, or in some houses (at least according to some sit-coms on TV) you would see children wearing them while they were eating dinner. I remember my brothers and I all received “Walkman” type devices one year for Christmas when I was about 12 or 13. It was only a few hours later the five of us where all sitting in our parents car with our headphones on, each of listening to our own music. While I don’t think that was our parents intention when they decided to give us these devices for Christmas, in some ways the ride up to grandma’s house was probably music to their ears too.
Over time the “Walkman” type devices have changed. During the last 30 or so years, these devices went from playing cassette tapes, to CD’s, to now most of them playing things you download off the computer. In the 1980’s these devices were about the size of a small purse. They were clunky, and it took awhile to get used to carrying it around. Now, most devices are small enough for you to slip in your pocket, and you hardly know you are carrying anything. No longer are they referred to as walkman’s either. Now they are ipods, smart phones, and mp3 players. Now it is not just music either. These handheld devices allow you to make a phone call, play games, write emails, search the web, and even watch movies. The one constant is they all allow you to put on your own headphones or ear buds and escape into a world of your own, where what you want to listen to or watch is all that matters.
Nowadays you not only see people wearing them while exercising, but you see people wearing them while driving, while grocery shopping, and while watching the Twins at Target Field. Nowadays you watch a group of friends walk together down the street and they each have their own device in their hand, with ear buds in their ears. And to be completely honest, I am one of them. On most days I have my ipod in my pocket, or at the very least it is in my car. A few weeks ago, I was walking quickly through Cub Foods listening to a radio program that I downloaded when all of a sudden a woman tapped me on the shoulder from behind. Apparently I dropped my wallet in the entryway. She looked a little irritated as she said she had been trying to catch up to me ever since I walked in the door. She handed me my wallet. I said thank you. She then said, “Maybe you wold have noticed that you dropped your wallet if you didn’t have those things in your ears.” And I have no doubt that she was right.
“Maybe you would have noticed...” For all the benefits of living in a time in which you can walk around with ear buds in your ears and listen to whatever you want, and watch whatever you want, and play games, and search the web, and text...the one thing we lose is the ability to notice what is going on around us right here and right now. Like many of you, I have on more than one occasion been bumped by people who did not see me because they were trying to text and walk at the same time. Like many of you, I have started conversations with people who were standing near me only to realize that they didn’t notice me because they didn’t hear me.
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to demonize these devices. I have no intention of getting rid of my ipod. And by no means do I blame that fact that we live in a time win which we don’t notice each other solely on these devices. As I have seen people who have never worn a headphone in their life walk through their day without noticing a single other person. Rather the point I am trying to get at is this; if we really want to talk about what it means to Be Kind, maybe we first need to figure out how to once again notice each other. And I know that me wearing my ipod only makes it harder.
Posted on Thu, April 21, 2011
by Joel Martin filed under