24 Hours Unplugged

headphonesThe new [Dr. Dre/Taylor Swift/Susan Boyle] album just dropped, and you’ve been busy blasting it on your iPod non-stop — while walking to work, riding the subway, waiting in line to buy lunch. But do you ever wonder what you’re missing out on beyond your earbuds?

For 24 hours, I decided to unplug in public — even more terrifying, I put away my phone. No screen to fix my eyes on, no headphones to block out all surrounding sounds. So, did I learn anything interesting? I would say so.

People devote a lot of time to Instagram filters.

As I rode the F train into Manhattan, I watched the woman standing next to me take a full two stops to decide on a filter for a photo of her with… well, I assume it was her baby, but I guess it could have been a photo of a stolen baby, as well. This delicate art of Instagram filtering is lost on me, as I usually think my blurry, out of focus photos look best in their original lighting. Clearly, I have a bias, but it seems that time could be better spent doing other things (like spying on strangers and judging them for how they spend their commute).

Cute guys are everywhere! (And girls, too, if that’s more your thing).

Did everyone in New York City suddenly become supremely attractive or is this what I’ve been missing out on since the introduction of the smartphone? Often, it feels as though online dating has entirely replaced meeting potential suitors in person. But while we’re busy selectively swiping right on virtual studs, we’re essentially swiping left on all the ones standing in front of us.

I’m a chronic hummer.

I’m not happy about all the things I learned from being fully immersed in the world. But apparently when my day doesn’t come with a soundtrack, I absentmindedly hum my own. And the track listing on that album is bizarre — my brain is basically an iPod shuffle for every song I’ve ever heard in my life.

Chipotle doesn’t normally cater, BUT…

Karen convinced them to cater her wedding. They had a burrito bar, and it totally wasn’t tacky at all because it was kind of her style, you know? It was actually kind of nice. At least, this is what I’ve heard. Speaking of which…

Eavesdropping is my greatest joy.

While this is something I’ve known since I was six years old and first realized I could listen in on the other line while my mom was on the phone, this experiment was a welcome reminder. And as I learned when I was six, I find the key to successful eavesdropping is not breathing too heavily.

Not every man who acknowledges you in public is trying to holla atcha.

Don’t get me wrong — there are ones who definitely are, and they are the worst. But let’s not allow these guys to ruin it for everyone.

While walking outside through a row of flower shops, I got stuck behind two little old ladies who were bouquet browsing. I was forced to move at such a glacial pace that I was mistaken for a customer.

“Looking for anything special?” asked an older man working at one of the shops. “Uhhh, no. Just trying to walk through,” I said. He saw the slow-moving seniors ahead of me and nodded with understanding. I passed by this man a second time while walking back the way I came from, and I was met with a polite “Hello, again!” Basically, we’re best friends, now.

Our online dating matches are actually out there in the real world.

I passed by a guy in my neighborhood and couldn’t figure out why he looked so familiar. It took me two blocks of picking my brain to realize we had messaged back and forth a few times on Tinder before I ultimately decided this app was the most horrifying thing since the original Exorcist and deleted it (unrelated to my brief interaction with this particular guy).

But I could have just skipped all the unsolicited penis pics and met “Brian, 31” in real life! Of course, we probably would never speak in real life because guys don’t approach girls who are humming.

I’ve been missing out on scoring subway seats.

While riding on a packed subway, you’ll mostly find me standing beneath an umbrella of armpits with my iPod blaring and a scowl on my face as I lament both the lack of empty seats and my achy back, which is spasmy beyond its years. But with my ears unobstructed, I was actually able to hear people offering me their seats or asking if I wanted to take the spot that had just opened up. For me and my geriatric back, this was the greatest discovery since roll-on Icy Hot

It’s easier to avoid getting hit by a car when I’m paying attention.

A prerequisite of being a New Yorker is the willingness to forge your way across the street despite any cars that may be approaching at full speed. And, of course, if you have a near death experience while doing so, you must mask your shame and sweat stains with an agitated show of self-righteousness. This has happened to me on more than one occasion — often because I was partially distracted by something I just saw on my phone.

But while walking to my office from lunch, I chose to hang back as a cluster of pedestrians in headphones lurched into oncoming traffic and almost died. Standing safe on the corner as I waited for the cacophony of car horns to subside, I met eyes with a fellow unplugged girl, and we exchanged a knowing smile. Man, did we feel smug.

Did I mention how many cute guys there are?

So many. But they’re all completely zoned in on their phones, Tindering away trying to find their next date. Look up at me! I’m right here and I’m not humming!

After this life-changing experience, there’s an obvious question that remains: Will I stay unplugged? I certainly feel compelled to try it again from time to time. But permanently forgoing earbuds in public is something I just can’t commit to right now. I mean, have you heard the new Susan Boyle album?

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