After I had stepped out of the house on a recent morning,
I realized that I did not have earphones. My immediate reaction was annoyance.
Now I would have to unlock the three front-door locks, take off my shoes, climb
two flights of stairs, find the earphones without waking the wife or kids, and
return through the same labyrinthine path to where I already was.
Or I could go without earphones.
I stood in my front yard and considered the dilemma for a
few moments. Then I made the decision. Screw it, I thought, I’ll go without.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Actually, it wasn’t such a life-changing experience. One
day without people talking into my ear didn’t change my life in the possible
grandiose way of the famous “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.
But not having earphones did allow me to more directly
experience my regular travel patterns and see things differently.
* * *
Like a lot of people, I have four or five different pairs
of earphones scattered around my home. Half of them are damaged with one side
cutting out, an ear pad missing or the plastic coating fraying off of the
wires. I go through them quickly because I use them all the time — during my
commute, while jogging, when working out in the garden and even when I am
I never listen to music. I only listen to podcasts. This
is the Golden Age of podcasts and there are so many good ones out there,
including The Gist, with Mike Pesca of Slate; The Daily, from the New York
Times; Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, from NPR; Pod Save America; Pod Save the World;
On the Media; several history podcasts; and, of course, the locally-produced Zbrojovkast
about the best football team in the world.
Right now I am listening to a true-crime series called “Monster:
D.C. Sniper” about the shocking three weeks of October 2002 when people were
afraid to pump gas into their cars for fear of being the next random victim.
It’s professional and interesting and probably not the best topic to have in my
head as I try to fall asleep.
The fact is, I am not good with idle time. If I am not
listening to something while I am moving around, then I feel as though I am
wasting an opportunity to learn something.
In any case, on this day, there were no earphones and,
therefore, no podcasts.
* * *
You get a slightly different perspective on everything
when you have all of your senses. You see buildings differently. You pick up on
more conversations. You notice what people are wearing. You have a better
feeling of time.
You feel safer when you cross a street or maneuver
through crowds. You appreciate the hustle and bustle of morning rush hour.
The city feels more authentic. It reminds you that you
are not on just any street; it is a street that has centuries of history.
Having a constant talk track in your ears colors
everything with American politics or international news or whatever the podcast
theme happens to be. Without that extra stimuli, you are more focused on your
Your brain is also more calm. That enables your mind to work a bit differently, to branch out and explore different thoughts. I was inspired to with a lot of ideas on my day without earphones, including the impetus for this column.
* * *
If you get a chance, or if you simply forget your
earphones some morning, embrace the different perspective that you get on your
daily life. It’s nice to take the road less travelled. Sometimes.
(Of course, so that it never happens again, make sure to keep an extra pair of earphones in your bag. That way you can always keep up on the latest news!)
I hope that this column will provide thought-provoking observations of local life that will be interesting for a Saturday-morning read. If you have any suggestions or comments, please pass them along to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. The publishing of this article does not constitute an endorsement of or any other expression of opinion by the management of Brno Daily.