I won an award in college once. Well, strictly speaking it wasn't an award so much as a joke, but still, it counts. I had joined the Northeastern Activities Board (NAB) the office which was responsible for the social activities on campus such as dances, concerts and so forth. Students were allowed to choose which committees you wanted to be on and mine always dealt with music. None of which had anything to do with my "award."
At the end of the school year the NAB would host a banquet where they would give out real awards and quite a few joke ones. Mine was for having surgically attached earphones due to my penchant for not only walking around campus with my Walkman on at a screechingly loud volume but also for having it on in the same manner in the office and still being able to maintain a conversation. I'm sure a lot of people thought I'd be deaf by now.
I used my walkman the way I did for two reasons. First, because it did allow me the freedom to walk around and listen to the music I loved whenever and wherever I wanted. Secondly, and more importantly, for a painfully shy, insecure young man such as myself it gave me a social out. I mean, I couldn't actually be expected to look at people and say hello (or some other innocuous greeting that may or may not have elicited a response) while jamming out to insanely loud volumes of heavy metal now could I?
I've never been comfortable or even adept at making small talk or just plain speaking with people I don't already know. So back then, whenever I came upon someone who looked in my general direction, I was quickly able to affect a look of intense concentration towards my Walkman. I would pretend I needed to fast forward to a different song or that I needed to change to another cassette or any of several other various pre-thought out reasons. It was foolproof, guaranteed to work almost one hundred percent of the time, except of course when someone could hear the music and have interest in it. Of course then I would be on common ground with them and was able to speak clearly and concisely about the subject at hand.
Now more than likely this whole process wasn't such a good thing for me. Without having it I might have been forced to come out of my shell and actually interact with people. I guess I thought of it as protection against having to deal with all of the jerks out in the world but at the same time it never allowed me to find those rare beings that weren't jerks unless as mentioned before the conversation dealt with music. Ah well, such is life. It was the way I was and I did learn life lessons from it one way or another.
Nowadays I use my Ipod while I roam the hallways at work. However I've noticed that far more people ignore the fact that I can't hear them, in an effort to force me into a conversation with them, than ever did back in the eighties. When this happens I just slap on a look that feigns interrupted concentration in the hopes that they will notice and leave me alone. See, I have learned lessons about interacting with people after all.
Written and Published by Don Leach.
May not be used without permission from the author.