Whither the AirPods

posted in: Day In The Life 25
Ms. Florence Violet McKenzie sitting at a desk listening to an early radio in 1922. Image: Wikipedia.



When you live in a big city, it’s possible to witness significant cultural shifts happen in real time.

You have a healthy sample size, for one thing. There are a lot of people to observe. And cities — not always, but most of the time — birth Next Big Things or adopt them early. So if you walk down the street in a big city and notice that lots and lots of people are engaging with a particular thing at the same time, or talking about the same thing, that thing is probably going to have a broader impact before very long.

Which brings us to wireless headphones. Specifically, the Apple AirPods. EarPods? iBuds. I realize that my inability to get the name of those damn things right makes me 1,000 years old, and calling them “those damn things” isn’t helping.

You’ve seen those damn things, right? Many of you may own a pair. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the next time you’re out someplace being 1,000 old* look for people walking around with white plastic sticks in their ears. Since humans are not (yet) made of bright white plastic, people using these newfangled headphones will hard to miss. Look for people who can’t hear you when you ask them a question because they have thin white sticks coming out of both ears that hang down past their earlobe. These people are wearing wireless headphones, i.e., headphones that connect to their phone without a cord that attaches the two. I don’t know how it works, but it does work.

More than a year ago, when Apple first released those damn things, a friend at the school newspaper immediately purchased a pair. He sashayed into the office wearing them and announced that his life had changed forever, that he was a new man with these wireless headphones. He looked strange to the rest of us, those bright white tubes hanging off both sides of his head. I thought he resembled a tagged deer. Nevertheless, he swore by them. We all nodded and went back to work.

Some months later, I saw more of these deer walking around. I don’t begrudge anyone their thing; we should all do our thing. But I must confess to feeling the tiniest bit smug when I’d pass someone wearing the white sticks. “Ha!” I’d think to myself, “You fell for it! Apple puts out a new product and you line up. New iPhone. Apple Watch. Filth! Stand up for yourself! Resist the tyranny of Apple!” I thought the deer were suckers, frankly, and conspicuous ones, too, which is the worst sort of sucker to be. I’m a sucker for lots of stuff, but it doesn’t show up on my ears.

Then everything flipped.

Just like in autumn when you look around one and realize all the leaves changed overnight; just like in spring when all of a sudden everything is green and flowers are having a lot of sex with each other (that’s how come there’s flowers, people, let’s face it), so it was with these wireless headphones. Suddenly, everyone was wearing them. Not everyone everyone, but many. Instead of seeing one tagged deer for every 300 people I’d pass while walking up Michigan Avenue, there were one or two in every 50 people, maybe more. I don’t have to count to see what’s happening: Wireless headphones are now The Thing. They are not a trend; they represent a major shift. You’re either tagged now or you’ll be tagged later. Now when I walk up or down the street, the people who stand out are the sad sacks with headphone cords. The plebes! Sad!

I got a pair of the damn things as a gift. I was most grateful for the gift, but to me, the accessory was just okay. It was cool to put the phone at one end of my apartment while I was on a work call and slowly walk away from it without having to shout. And I very much liked not having to untangle my headphone cord every time I took it out of my purse. As for wearing the wireless headphones in public, I felt very with it. I felt very tech savvy. I felt very au courant.

Well, I hate feeling all of those things. I don’t want to be a tagged deer! Trying to stay on top of the times is a tricky proposition: A gal must allow herself to be carried at least some distance on the winds of change; living under a rock is lonely and dark and then you’re living under a rock, so that’s not going to be very comfortable. But to pay too much attention to whatever culture is demanding of you this week is to be used up real quick by forces you can’t control. That’s not very comfortable, either.

Better to watch and wait a little while and see what sticks — or sticks out. Incidentally, I managed to lose my headphones in an Uber in New Orleans. I am 95 percent sure this was an accident.


*call me

25 Responses

  1. Nadine
    | Reply

    Ha! This made me smile. I was just noticing those tiny white sticks in someone’s ear the other day. I think it looks strange but then again- I am a mother of 5 and they think I am strange. Technology is always changing. Soon there will be something else to replace those sticks! Me……. I like things simple.

  2. Ronda Parsons
    | Reply

    Mary, I love this post! Totally relatable and well written…and funny to boot! Now I am going to totally sound like a dinosaur, but when I see these “tags” I wonder if they are safe. Many years ago my husband was told by ‘people-in-the-know’ in DC that cellphones should not be held close to our heads. How this is done exactly has always bewildered me, but the thought stuck. Anyway, when I see these protrusions sticking out of people’s ears I wonder if they are causing themselves harm. A totally avoidable harm. Only time will tell.

  3. Mary E Spriet
    | Reply

    I am 60 yrs. old, not quite 90…… however, I find technology exhausting! As human beings, do we really require all of this. Yes, I like my cell phone and am looking to get a better one. (And, yes I still have a landline.) Yes, I love the internet and all it has to offer. But, every time you turn around there is a bigger & better version. And, I find it difficult to keep up, much less understand it. I’m at the point where I want to simplify my life, not add more confusion. Everything is developed to make life easier. We are becoming a fast paced, yet lazy species. I have absolutely no desire to “keep up with the Joneses”.

  4. Lauren
    | Reply

    I recently decided that, to facilitate podcast listening while sewing, I would start passively shopping for giant, cushy over-ear headphones. Those little innie thingies HURT! And the sound isn’t as good. If I wanted lousy sound quality, I’d go on listening to things via my phone on loudspeaker. Also, having worked in an open office environment I appreciate the obvious “don’t bug me” message that big headphones send.

    • Loreen
      | Reply

      Look at the Bose Soundwear. It is a bluetooth speaker that sits on your shoulders like a little yoke. I got one a year ago and ABSOLUTELY love it! I sew and quilt for hours every day and this allows me to adjust volume without getting up and also answer my cell phone. Works with phone, tv, iPad, etc. I wear hearing aids and can’t use headsets. I do all housework with it on.

  5. Karen
    | Reply

    Oh, I’m with you on this one! Yes, these things are everywhere, even in the small-town Midwest, and have been for quite awhile. I’m sure that they are useful for those with occupations requiring much phone time and for those with disabilities who need to block out the rest of us to function. But as a daily matter of course for the general population?? They may be connecting with unseen people, but it cannot replace face-to-face human contact, in my book.

  6. Ann Wise
    | Reply

    Do you feel like you are in a Star Trek show now?

  7. Kathleen
    | Reply


  8. Sarah Pegg
    | Reply

    Darling Mary;
    Thank you for writing about these ear things. I live in the “boonies” and haven’t seen them yet. Now, although I have NO desire to emulate those who use them, I will at least know what they are. (And I would love to know more about your new abode.)

  9. Mark Vieira
    | Reply

    I did not have to buy a pair. I have Bluetooth earring aids. Basically the same thing. If I am in a meeting I can listen to music instead of the speaker(s).

  10. Jo Chalk
    | Reply

    Oh Mary, this article was awesome girl! I am 70, I have tried all kinds of ear buds on a wire…all buds are too big for my ears and always fall out. So, I wear head phones and if you don’t think I get some looks.

  11. Li
    | Reply

    t d t
    You’ve started a new meme.
    Over 10 years ago I was fascinated listening to wonderful music on an iPod Touch which was basically an iPhone without the phone. DH gifted a set of earphones (pods?) that required no physical connection or plug into the Touch. I could make it all the way across the office to the break room or copy machine and not affect the signal one bit. Heaven. No more hanging myself when standing to leave the desk.

  12. carmen mullins
    | Reply

    I think they look like broken cigarettes in their ears! Can’t help myself — I giggle every time I see someone wearing them! Ha!

  13. PinkD
    | Reply

    Ha! I’ve been wear “wireless earbuds” for a long time….but mine are my hearing aids that sync with my iPhone so I can actually hear the damn phone. My hearing aids turn into wireless headset when the phone rings as long as I have them set up right. Oh yeah, and if I’m actually wearing them!

    | Reply

    Saw your first appearance on The Quilt Show; got me back to your blog. I’ve missed reading your posts. Anyway, now that you’re in your new place, can you start searching for another Philip Larkin? BTW, why that name? I looked him up and he’s a British poet. I don’t know….I’d probably pick Freddy Mercury.
    I’m a subscriber of Quiltfolk and I think you and the staff are doing an awesome job!

  15. Susan B
    | Reply

    Haven’t heard from you in awhile, hope you are alright. Will say a little prayer. 😉

  16. Cathy Sargent
    | Reply

    Haven’t seen them yet. But, I suppose you could cut off one end of a Q-tip and stick the soft end in your ears in order to look ‘with it’ without the expense! (Try this at your own risk!).

    Anyway, I loved watching you and and mom work together on your show. Miss it now because for some reason I can’t get it on Dish.

    | Reply

    So….. seeing your Facebook page.. CLEARLY this is the reason we haven’t been seeing on here! CONGRATULATIONS!
    I wish you nothing but absolute happiness!!!

  18. Linda
    | Reply

    I never questioned your writing ability. I know you can pick a topic and write pointedly, timely and insightfully. But I want to know about you — how you’re doing and what you’re doing and how you feel. Please tell us what’s going on in your life. Air pods on another day.

  19. Kimberly
    | Reply

    Someone in New Orleans doubtlessly thinks he/she hit the jackpot when those air pods were found! Enjoyed reading your blog. I’m late or totally miss jumping on most bandwagons and am not that fashionable, so no air/ear pods for me! Plus, it’s extremely annoying when you’re trying to communicate with someone AT work ABOUT work and their ears are plugged up, and not with wax!

  20. Susan Knoll
    | Reply

    Miss you Mary Fons… hope this finds you well and enjoying your little bit of heaven. Please come back to Papergirl soon.

    Sincerely, Susan Knoll

  21. Val
    | Reply

    Can’t wear them in my ears – wrong shape and size=very painful.

    Miss hearing from you via your blog posts–hope you are doing okay.

  22. carmen mullins
    | Reply

    How are you? Think we’ll get another blog post from you? 🙂

  23. Cherry
    | Reply

    Where are you Mary Fons? I miss you (and I’m a wee bit worried).

  24. Carmela
    | Reply

    Hi All, has there been any update on Mary and how she is doing?

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