Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Things I Hate: Subway DJs

This morning, on a crowded Q train, music began to play. I looked over and identified the source as a young man standing a few feet away. At first I thought it was his phone ringing, but when the music did not stop--and, in fact, got louder--it became clear that this was his version of an iPod. I mean, who needs headphones when you can share your bad, static-ridden reggae with the whole car?

This phenomenon--and it is a phenomenon--baffles me to the point of wanting to bang my head against something, hard. At least 5 times a year, I encounter this same thing. A man--and it is always a man--plays loud music from a handheld device, totally oblivious to the death stares being aimed at him by all of his fellow passengers. I don't mean to sound like an asshole--I mean, I love music--but I think what bothers me about this is that it is breaking a social code, a code that says "since we are sharing a small enclosed space and it is the New York City subway already which means inevitably the ride will be unpleasant, you will listen to your music using a set of headphones, which cost only $5 and which are readily available at pretty much any store anywhere." I know it's not that these men can't afford headphones, which means that they just don't think it's wrong. Furthermore, they have no shame. No sense of right and wrong + no shame = sociopath. Which is why no one will tell them to turn off their music.

If you have any input on this, I'd love to know. Why do you think they do this? Do they just not give a fuck? Do they think our mornings will be brightened by their generous gift? Did their mothers somehow mangle their lessons on sharing? If I wish them harm, is that like really bad karma? Do you think they would like my Petula Clark songs?


  1. I don't think they're oblivious at all. I think they're trying to exert influence over their environments, to show the rest of us, in some bizarre way, that they can do what they want, and guess what, we won't confront them.

    Personally, I've never been a fan of that particular social code, and, rush-hour crowding aside, I'm usually in support of anything that gets people to acknowledge each other's existence and maybe even interact. However, the tinniness of those damn cell phone speakers is just plain horrible. So while I may not share your reasons, I definitely share your disdain. If you're going to force your music on me, at least make it sound good.

  2. I've wondered this too, and I have an anecdote that might illuminate the phenomenon. When I was in London in 2000, I was riding the "Tube" when a young turk clad in a banana-yellow jumpsuit and matching beanie sauntered on, eased himself onto the bench opposite me, and hit play on a large boom box that, although large, had the approximate audio quality of a phone speaker, only loud. The music was literally the simplest music I've ever heard; imagine a computer making the noises "Doom Doom, Dip" over and over again and you're there. And he leaned/sat there with a look on his face that said, "I AM THE FUCKING SHIT."

    I really think these dudes believe they are giving the world a lesson in coolness. We all think they are completely out of line; they think they're pushing things forward. And they're wrong.

  3. I agree with the commenter above, it is definitely this idea of just being able to "do whatever they want" without anyone confronting them. I was waiting for the subway the other day (in Philadelphia) and this man with an enormous white shirt down to his knees and "shorts" that graced his ankles walked around the platform just hitting "play" on his ring tone- which was a 15 second clip from a horrendous rap song I can't even place, or even make out one word, because the quality was so low from the cell phone. Every time it ended, he would reach in his pocket and play it again, wandering through the crowds waiting.

  4. omg im glad i found this thing cos isnt it great when they sit down next to you and eat a hamburger, or yawn close to you with their mouth open and steam comes out and disperses into your face or caughing in your face!!!!!!! Or weird stuff, or all the million other things people should kno better!


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