Wednesday, February 14, 2007

That's entertainment

I read an article Monday about a man who paid $25,000 for an entertainment system in the cab of his pickup truck, including a DVD player and surround sound system with a 10.5-inch screen, two subwoofers and nine speakers.

The screen is mounted in the dashboard.

Aside from the obvious folly here, it’s interesting how far some people will go to remain entertained. As a society, we’re scared to death of having nothing to do. Even driving the freeway isn’t enough to merit our full attention.

While we’re out and about, we scroll the Internet on our Blackberries and play games on our cell phones. We can’t sit in an airport waiting area without a television blabbering overhead. (I’ve tried to move away from them. It’s impossible. They’re everywhere.)

When I get on the subway, I often find everyone lined up on the seats with little white earphones in their ears, a veritable platoon of iPods. They’re all sealed inside their own little worlds, being entertained.

Until a few years ago, I did the same thing. I was always plugged into earphones as I walked around town or rode mass transit.

But I began to get uncomfortable with not hearing what was going on around me. It started with security - I wanted to know if someone was walking behind me or ringing a bicycle bell. Then I gradually realized I just didn’t like being disconnected from external sounds.

Granted, they weren’t all pleasant sounds: the rattle and screech of the train wheels, the mumbling of the homeless man, the aluminum can rolling back and forth across the floor of the train car. But why should I seal them out?

Some people on the subway do double-time on entertainment. While listening to their iPod, they read a book. I don’t know how they do it.

Now, I really like my music, and at home, my CD player is often on. But that doesn't keep me from hearing the meowing cat, the rain on the window, even the clunky footsteps of my upstairs neighbor.

When my grandfather was dying in a hospital outside Washington, D.C., in 1977, he told my grandmother that he missed being at home, where he could hear the apples falling from the tree in the backyard.

How many of us are too busy being entertained to hear the apples fall? What sounds will we miss when our time is running out?

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