A few months ago, a woman sat down next to me on the bus and began a conversation. Not necessarily with me, because at the time I had my headphones in. But, because it's the polite thing to do, I removed the earbuds and replied, just in case she had a legitimate question.
Soon I was engaged in what can only be termed as intermittent chit-chat, as she wandered from one topic to another. That is, until she zeroed in on the fact that most of the people who ride the bus are attached to their MP3 players and don't talk to each other anymore.
I commented that it's sometimes nice to relax with music after a long, stressful day at work. (Hint, hint, lady.) What I didn't say was that digital music is probably the single best thing to happen to public transportation since air conditioning. Few things make me happier than being in a moving vehicle that I don't have to steer with some tunes and plenty of time to just think. I'm content for hours doing this. It's like meditation.
I also didn't tell her that I rode the bus for two years before getting my iPod, and I had approximately four interesting conversations during that period, none of which resulted in a new BFF. I have a 30-minute ride each way. In the morning, I'm tired. In the afternoon, I'm more tired. I don't want to have a gab session with anyone, least of all a recent immigrant who's a bit preachy about Apple's ill effects on the general populace.
The woman then launched into a mini-lecture about how small towns are superior because people actually talk to each other, and how American cities have no sense of community. At this point, my customary Zen-like state had been permanently shattered by her yapping, so I responded that I originally come from a small town, and having some anonymity in the city is actually a nice thing. I didn't remind her that people in tiny communities don't just know each other -- they know each other's business. And unless things are drastically different elsewhere, everybody's always up in that business, whether you like it or not.
She disagreed, of course, and insisted on passive-aggressively scolding me for giving in to the temptation of anti-social technology. Ironically, all I wanted to do during her speech was stick my headphones back in my ears. I probably should have, just to prove a point.
Thankfully, I didn't see her again for several weeks. And, when I did, no further rebuttal was necessary ... for she had succumbed to the sweet siren song of an undisturbed commute and had in her possession an MP3 player.
Welcome to America.