Me, myself and i
Posted on March 8, 2005
There have been grumblings from those bastions of integrity, the Op-Ed columnists of the broadsheets, that, as Andrew Sullivan of The Times writes, “society is dead.” We have all, with the aid of those pretty, white things, “retreated into the iWorld.” Sullivan is not referring to the attractive WASP community of The O.C. but, with his clever inference of the lower case ‘I’, the Apple iPod – friend of the music lover; enemy, as the article suggests, of the regular human being. Yes, the portable music player, capable of storing 15,000 songs, has usurped the mobile phone, cable television and indeed the pocket watch of yesteryear to become the feared slayer of society.
“What was once an occasional musical diversion became a compulsive
obsession,” writes Sullivan. “Now I have my iTunes in my iMac for my iPod in my iWorld. It’s Narcissus heaven: we’ve finally put the ‘i’ into Me.” What would happen, you might wander, if we tried to take the ‘i’ out of me. Well, partial blindness, you might say. But just yesterday I became an accidental guinea pig in one such social experiment, when my iPod, damaged under the heavy foot of drunkenness, slept quiet in its dock, while I, in upper case, went about my day – not a wire from my ears, a hard drive in my pocket or a song in my heart. This is my story. iStory, if you will.
Walk from my flat to the office without the usual spring in my step. Feels less like a music video than usual. I sense a draught in my inner ears and the discordant music of a town waking up. Am also reminded that traffic lights make noise. This makes me laugh.
Arrive at the office and immediately say hi to co-worker, Pat, without having to fumble around for the pause button on my iPod. With nothing to do with my hands, and not wanting to grope Pat, I fumble all the same, and comment on how great her new hair looks. I do not start up iTunes and instead turn on the radio. It’s the news. An Italian intelligence agent has died under US fire while escorting a freed hostage.
Leave office for meeting. Overhear what I suspect is a conversation about anal sex. Am tempted at this point to walk the rest of the way with my fingers in my ears. The conversation however recalls the Backstreet Boys’ song, ‘I Want it That Way’, which plays in my head. Ordinarily, I would replace it with something more sophisticated. *Nsync perhaps. Instead, I enjoy the catchy hook and eyebrow raising lyrics. I attempt to raise an eyebrow, but can’t, and board the train.
Arrive in Leeds. The outward journey was pretty horrific. (‘Silent Coach’ my arse.) And with no music my mind wanders to food. Time however only allows for the purchase of lunch but not its consumption and so, rushing off to my meeting, I push the snack into my jacket. Its plastic packaging rustles whenever I shake hands and introductions are made all the more uncomfortable with a hummus wrap peering out from my pocket.
Stomach rumbles throughout meeting. Someone asks what South Yorkshire will do when EU funding runs out. I think of the David Gray lyric, “what we gonna do/when the money runs out,” but can’t name the song or recall any other lyrics. I begin to dread the train journey back, and the frustration of being unable to locate the track in my iPod music library. Grrr…
Train changes at Manchester Picadilly. With the few minutes that I have I cave and visit the Apple Store. The song is ‘Nightblindness’ from the album, White Ladder. And the daydeafness, finally, is lifted. I turn on, tune in and cop out. If society is dead, I think to myself, then this is its funeral music. Rest in peace, I say, and turn up the volume. Loud.