Welcome to earth. Our planet is, for the most part, made up of humans peacefully going about their lives. People trying their damnedest to be happy in a world that is alternately beautiful, agonizing, magical, unjust, joy-filled, and plain old messy. At the moment, we’re also living in a society. A society where our differences are unavoidable.Where we often seem at odds with each other in ways large and small.
In order to coexist without needing a monthly weekly daily version of The Purge, we have to honor an unspoken social contract. That contract is always changing and evolving to fit the times. Things that were okay socially 20-years ago are deemed inappropriate now. Things that were inappropriate 20 years ago are all good in 2018. It shifts constantly and there’s nothing that makes you seem old like ranting about what people should or shouldn’t do.
But there are times, every once in a blue moon, when a rant is needed. When you just have to go full Larry David and rage, rage against the burning of the fabric that binds us all together. You have to look over from your peaceful coffee at 7am, see a surfbro colonizing the whole shop with the sounds the Kookslams clip he’s watching on Instagram, and decide, “This is the battle I’m going to fight.”
So you walk up to him, knowing that you’re about to act like a killjoy but reminding yourself that it was your joy that was killed by his full volume clip in the first place, and say, “Dude, can you put on headphones? Please?”
It’s the right thing to do. It’s your flag in the ground. And the people will cheer for you and treat you like a valiant champion and shower you with vanilla sugar and stir sticks. Because, like you, they despise anyone listening to their phones at full volume in public. They despise it with a white-hot hatred.
On the much-beloved podcast My Favorite Murder they talk about “sociopath tests” — little riddles or behavior traits that reveal an utter lack of empathy. Let’s call this one the “phone/volume/public space exam.” It’s very simple, no complicated quizzes required. If someone is doing it, you can bet they’re a murderer. At least 90% of the time.
In fact, if you see someone with the volume on in public, just assume that it’s the Golden State Killer or some other soulless phantom. FBI, you’re welcome, now SWARM!
It’s also evidence of horrible short-term thinking. Just imagine: One day, you play your phone in public with the volume on. Annoyed and wanting to counteract you, I do the same. Except with the volume a little higher. Then you go over the top of me, or maybe a third party enters the fray. Soon every Starbucks, DMV line, and doctor’s office waiting room looks like this:
It will happen, I promise. Because hell hath no fury like someone who was forced to listen to a stupid video of your grandkids while they’re trying to enjoy a meal out.
Speaking from my own personal experience, I will tell you that I have never had a history of anger or public outbursts and people watching videos on their phones with the volume on has driven me to both. There was the kid on the plane, playing video games, whose parents I shamed like an 18th-century schoolmarm. There were the teenagers in the coffee shop watching Youtube, who I called out as if they were setting fire to a dog. There was the elderly couple next to me at dinner last night, who literally prompted this entire, impassioned internet rant.
It’s everywhere. Every restaurant. Every flight. Every lobby. It’s madness. And not the “people texting at dinner absolutely cheapens the whole dining experience but it doesn’t directly affect me so I can just shrug it off”-type of madness. This is “WHY AM I LISTENING TO YOU WATCH CLIPS OF NICK AND SCHMIDT ARGUING ON NEW GIRL AT A FREAKING RESTAURANT?”-type of madness.
Taking part in this behavior is a willingness to take your agenda and impose it on a captive audience of others. People who are paying to have an experience that they selected based on the pretext that it wouldn’t have you providing the soundtrack.
Is this Old Man Yells At Cloud? Is it something that just has to be accepted? Is it the way our world is?
Not yet. There’s still time for society to insist that headphones are part of the social contract. Because this is the sort of selfishness that’s pushing us towards the apocalypse. And when that day comes, people who watch videos with the volume on in public will be the same ones who start hunting humans for meat. They don’t care about you. They only care about themselves. They are the takers.
So they must be stopped. And if you’re one of them, you must be stopped. By any means necessary (probably just the waiter politely asking you to put your phone on silent). Because this foul habit is a plague. And society can only thrive if we eradicate it.