Saturday, June 9, 2007

IPod as the Great Transit Equalizer

It’s funny but I think the advertisements for Apple’s IPod are fairly accurate. Especially in San Francisco you see silhouettes of people and these white lines hanging from their ears all over the place, whether its on the sidewalk, bus or train. But it strikes me that the IPod should also be known as the great transit equalizer. When it came to riding in your car you had a cd or tape case where you could choose from all the music you had, or at least what you had in your case. In order to do that on transit one would have to lug around their collection with them.

Now with the IPod, we can have thousands of songs in a device that is the same size of our wallet, allowing us to listen to whatever we want to, whenever we want to. But while the IPod can be hooked up to the car, it seems to be more useful from a transportation standpoint to walkable transit oriented neighborhoods. When you get out of a car the radio turns off or there is a tape transition, but when you leave a train or bus, the music continues on kind of like a soundtrack to your life.

In my opinion, it’s this soundtrack quality that can give transit a bonus versus the car. There are many songs that if I play them in my car they bring back memories. Specific places on a road from Austin to Houston when I would drive home for Christmas or Thanksgiving are imagined in my head when I listen to the particular song I like to play on that stretch of road. Since I had a CD changer in my trunk and not the front deck I would even pull the car over to switch CDs if the one I wanted for that certain section of road was not available in the changer.

Now I’m finding that I’m having similar experiences with transit and my Ipod. However instead of just in the car, I have it for walking around the city, places along bus routes and inside of department stores. It even allows me to drown out the awful music at say the Gap or other places where they try to match the brand with music types. Well what if I want to shop in the Gap or Target listening to some metal or opera? They wouldn’t play those over the speakers but with the great equalizer we can.

There might be some drawbacks including awareness of your surroundings that might lead to some unfortunate altercations with automobiles or with the less desirable and under discussed elements of city life. There is always an issue of being social as well; shutting people out by just having headphones on is easy. But if anything, the great equalizer is incredibly more social than say an automobile. People in their own pods of space cut off from having to deal with social situations has led to rises in the instances of road rage however I’ve never heard of anything called Pod Rage. It might exist but from what I’ve seen, people are generally passive when bumped into with their IPod versus people bumped into who don’t have one on.

There is a serious issue that should be discussed as well with regards to hearing though. I know I’m guilty of listening to my IPod much louder than I should if I’m in a subway to drown out the external noise. However this could lead to long term hearing damage and such is said your eardrums are like lobsters, once their cooked there is no going back. I’m thinking about whether I should get noise canceling headphones or just read with earplugs which might be a soundtrack setback.

But with all that being said, I see the Ipod and MP3 players in general as a great transportation equalizer. You can create a soundtrack of songs you like but now it won’t apply to just your car but rather memories and experiences of life in general.

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