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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

An Article On My Constant Companion

Why, my iPod, of course. This piece from the New York Times nicely sums up the appeal of the world's favourite portable music player for those living in a big city (like, say, London).

Entangled by Ear Buds, and Other Musical Mishaps

By KAYLEEN SCHAEFER

Published: January 23, 2005

Most people are late to work because they overslept or got stuck on the express platform, but Matt Haggerty was tardy one recent morning because of his iPod. His commute from the Upper East Side to Grand Central takes only 10 minutes. But he was so absorbed in newly uploaded music from the British rapper the Streets, that when he finally looked up he was at the Borough Hall stop in Brooklyn.

"I call it Poditary Confinement," said Mr. Haggerty, 27, who was teased only by his iPodless co-workers.

In other places around the nation, people may leave their iPods in their homes or cars, but in New York, the slim rectangle has become a constant companion. "The Apple SoHo store is one of our biggest-grossing stores and, obviously, iPods are a major reason for that," a spokesman for Apple said.

And with the ever-present ear buds has come an influx of iPod-related mishaps, some highly amusing, others potentially disastrous. Because unlike the portable CD player before it, the iPod is so light and offers so much continuous music that listeners often forget it's there, freeing them up to accidentally step into traffic (or worse, a throng of tourists).

The subway and the iPod are not a particularly complementary combination. Jason Cochran, a travel writer, says he hates when his ear buds are ripped out when the cord catches on the subway turnstile. "It happens all the time," he said, "but I enjoy blaming the M.T.A. for it." And 25-year-old Leah Foster has her iPod to blame for getting her lost while she was visiting the city from Chicago. Because she was under the spell of seemingly unlimited songs, she missed the Times Square stop, where she was supposed to meet her boyfriend.

Instead, she got out near Central Park and stumbled onto a surreal roller disco party, run by a D.J. whose speakers were hooked up to a car battery, with an audience of eight people in lawn chairs. "It was one of those truly New York experiences," said her boyfriend, Dave Wolkowitz, who listened to it by cellphone as it happened.

But perhaps the ultimate New York experience is having your personal space breached. In a city where everyone wants what everyone else has, even iPod playlists are not off limits for the curious. At the Equinox near Union Square, Lisa Kolodny was exercising and listening to her iPod recently when she noticed the woman on the elliptical trainer next to her trying to speak to her. Ms. Kolodny took out her ear buds, and the woman asked if she would mind trading iPods while they worked out because she was bored of her playlists.

"I felt like it was the equivalent of asking a stranger to lick your face in the middle of a bar," said Ms. Kolodny, 26, who politely declined, partly because she feared the woman's iPod would be stocked with Olivia Newton-John.

Still, for all the accidents that come with the technology of the moment, it can be a savior for some. Laura Brown, 30, who not long ago began commuting through crowded Grand Central, had never been driven to portable music before. But, she said, "Without it, I would have killed a man." So perhaps the iPod is making the city safer after all.

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