Hearing damage: the price of privacy

This is because I cannot hear that person.

The cause? Hearing loss.

I recently broke down and bought an iPod. There are several pros and cons to this, the cons being that I am now subject to extreme hearing loss and the pros being that I can join the hoards of teenagers across American who walk around all day with their iPods plugged into their ears to communicate to the public the basic message of, ?Don?t talk to me. I don?t want to talk to you. I?m ignoring you. Buzz off.?

At least, this is the impression I get whenever I see someone walking past me with their headphones firmly in place.

They walk around with this glazed, stony look on their face. There is a white chord snaking out of their pocket, up the front of their shirt, and then it splits into two smaller chords that insert themselves directly into each ear.

Whenever I see this, I think about making some sort of distracting motion, just to see if they?ll acknowledge my presence when they pass. At least, I used to.

That was before I got my own iPod.

I got to test this ?ignore me? technique for the first time on a recent high school band trip to Branson, Mo., The Show Me Country Singers and Horse Doo State.

It was early in the morning and I had just gotten out of bed, so I thought I?d go down to the hotel lobby and get some free congestional?um, continental?breakfast.

My hair was still wet from my shower, my eyes were bloodshot from putting in my contacts and my voice sounded like a bullfrog on sedatives. I was in no mood to actually interact with anything more energetic than biscuits and gravy.

However, my brain was just awake enough to suggest that if I use my iPod, no one would bother me. So I put in the tiny headphones, selected a play list of Frank Sinatra, and walked out into the hall.

I?m not proud of this, but it actually worked. Not a single person even made eye contact with me as a I shuffled groggily through the hallway, down the elevator and into the lobby.

For those of you unfamiliar with the iPod, it is basically a small, portable device primarily used for playing music.

The iPod I chose is a fourth-generation iPod Nano, which looks a lot like a green, iridescent Chiclets product. The iPod works like this:

Once you have purchased an iPod, you download a program called iTunes onto your computer. Through iTunes, you can purchase music online, which is then stored in your iTunes program.

These music files, called MP3s, then sit on the iTunes floor and get in the way of digital vacuuming until you plug your iPod into the computer, which allows you to pick the files up off of the floor and put them into your iPod.

This process is called ?importing,? and somehow flattens out each file until it is so thin that it can slip out of iTunes, through a small USB (Unexciting Small Bay) cable, and comfortably fit into your iPod.

Then you turn your iPod on, insert the ?ear buds? into your ears, and the little music particles flow through the chord and into your ear canal?completed in 1941 by the WPA?where they bounce off of your ear drum and cause permanent hearing damage.

Perhaps you think I?m mostly making this up. Perhaps you?re mostly correct.

But I?m stating the truth when it comes to the possibility of hearing loss. In fact, I recently read an article about someone suing the Apple company, makers of the iPod, because iPods are ?inherently defective in design and are not sufficiently adorned with adequate warnings regarding the likelihood of hearing loss.?

Maybe it?s just me, but I?m pretty sure no one has been keeping the secret that playing loud music right next to your ear may cause hearing damage.

Of course, this lawsuit will only mean that printed on the back of future iPod products will be, ?Warning: the Surgeon General has determined that use of this product may cause lung cancer.?

Wait. That?s not right.

But I think you get my picture. However, no matter how much people hound us about hearing loss, I?m pretty sure my generation will keep using our iPods anyway.

You can whine all you want. Just bear in mind that it was YOUR generations that brought us both the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal AND the performer Barry ?Copa Cabana? Manilow. So say what you want about my generation. We?re ignoring you.

Besides, we can?t hear you, anyway.

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UFO: Frank Sinatra once boxed under the name Marty O?Brien.

Don?t ask why.