Music-free Buses and Trains

Thank you TimeOut magazine for calling attention (last week, page 11) to one of my major pet peeves: people playing music on tubes, trains and buses. I’m sure someone out there will accuse me once again of being an old curmudgeon (see earlier post about screaming kids), but let me assure you that I am by no means anti-music (this post is beginning to sound like a scene from Footloose). I am quite pro-music… A musician, in fact. I am so pro-music that it pains me to listen to music coming out of such crap speakers, like those little ones on mobile phones these days.

That’s part of my issue. But we all know that sound quality has nothing to do with why people listen to music out loud, of course, so I won’t harp on it. This fad is just another way for (mostly) young people to assert their identity. In a media saturated society, the symbols of identity have become in-your-face. Young people need to advertise brand names on the outside of clothing to carve out a niche. And it’s no longer sufficient to just dress like your favourite pop star, you have to actually play the music for all to hear. So the larger issue, and this is the one that resonates with most people, I think, is that it is just annoying that we have to be subjected to someone else’s top 40 cry for attention whilst trapped in an enclosed space. This is precisely why headphones were invented. The same rule that I apply to my teenage students in the classroom applies here: it wouldn’t be OK if everyone did it, so it’s not OK for one person to do it.

The TimeOut article includes this link to sign a petition to ban music on buses, which I gladly signed, and I learned on the site that just today the organizers of the campaign were turning in their first 4,500 signatures to TFL. But the article also encourages people to actually ask the offenders to stop, and to support others who ask them to stop. This, unfortunately, will involve hundreds of thousands of British people doing something which is fundamentally out of their character. Not being British myself, though, I have no problem speaking up, and I am happy to report that my success rate is 100 percent so far.

My strategy is to cleverly combine the bad sound quality angle and the ‘kindly fuck off’ angle. What I say is: ‘Have you got some headphones you might listen to your music with?’ Or, in situations where a little something extra is needed, I sometimes preface my question by saying ‘I really like that song, but…’ This has the added benefit of ensuring that the kid will never listen to the artist in question ever again (I try only to do this in particularly dire situations).

I can already hear the sound of dozens of readers tutting at the pushy American. And that, my friends, will be the topic of my next post…

2 Comments so far

  1. Phil (unregistered) on December 10th, 2006 @ 4:43 pm

    It is an undeniable fact that people today, and especially teenagers, tend to ‘impose’ their originality and uniqness in this certian form – playing music on their cell-phones – and the annoyance factor that comes along with it for others who have other things to think about than strutting the latest fashion.

    Troubles of one’s mind are agrivated when one has to listen to crap music that has no lyrical foundations.

    Sorry guys, but I too think playing music out loud in public places over small power speakers is cheap, and an insult to the song itself.

  2. Flora (unregistered) on December 11th, 2006 @ 10:29 am

    I totally agree with you that this is rude and unpleasant, but you are also right that it’s typical teenage rebellion and not actually harmful to anyone. I am opposed to banning things just because I find them inconvenient or irritating. I would prefer social pressure (telling people off) or notices requesting passengers not play music. As ineffectual as these may be, it’s the only fair way to run a society. After all, next time it may be your or my foible that’s banned!

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