Monday, July 24, 2006

My iPod Port Swapping movement will save the world.

Ever since I first graced the Washington Metro with my old-school 10 GB iPod, I've had the idea to bring nations and peoples together with the power of a sound jack.

Follow me, because it doesn't make any sense yet, what I just said.

Sharing what you're listening to can be a messy sport, particularly if you drive your earbuds deep. I'm not down with passing those around to the multifunkious ears on any given subway. Yet the need persists to tear down walls, to cross cultural boundaries, and to really listen to each other. Or at least to each others' iPods.

So I devised a savior for the world, and it's called Port Swapping.

It goes like this: when you've got your iPod on, and you sit near someone with an iPod too, you pull out your headphone plugs and plug in to each others' headphone jacks. You get your listen on to whatever the other person is jiving, and then you switch back.

The process has a vaguely carnal appeal to it, though everybody involved has male connectors, and only the iPod is being violated. But it's safe! Harmless. You never let go of your iPod, no fluids are shared, and no one can accuse you of using your 3.5mm member for iniquity. On the contrary: you're sharing a moment of humanity.

In New York or San Fran, you can peep at least five iPods on any subway car. (And DC, to a lesser degree, because the old guard can't yet figure out why an iPod is better than a Walkman.) But this brings up a good point: why discriminate? I've hooked up with a Discman or two in my day, to say nothing of mini-cassette recorders and AM transmitters. Shoot, I've had the odd one-night stand with a Panasonic now and then. I didn't respect myself in the morning, but I learned something about myself. And that's this: don't have sex with Panasonic home electronics.

I put my Port Swapping plan for humanity to the test this weekend, whilst riding a bus northward to the Big City. I sought out someone with whom I could tear down cultural boundaries and really grow by reaching out to them. Someone outside of my comfort zone. Across the aisle sat a cute white girl with brown hair... listening to a Discman. Perfect. We were worlds apart. By gum, we'd challenge those stereotypes.

So I reached out, and with stumbling sign language, invited her to plug into my world, which at that point, was playing the Gaskets. She was a little flustered until she realized what I was getting at: Excuse me miss? We need to change the world together by swapping ports. And as soon as she understood what I meant, her flusteredness turned to embarrassment.

I plugged in to her world, and my ears were filled with a monotone male voice. She was listening to a book on tape.

It probably would've been less awkward had I not thought she was German. I was giving my best wide-eyed, too-loud tone, the one we take with people who are new to English. Turned out she was from Rockville, Maryland. Not a even little bit foreign.

The point, however, is that we changed the world a little bit in that moment. And I invite you to do the same. Port Swap with someone. Start with the man in the mirror, ask him to change his ways, and then ask some cute girl/guy on your metro transit system to swap ports with you, if even for just a few seconds.

You won't regret it.

Unless they're listening to a book on tape.

UPDATE: Read the comment thread here, in which the non-foreigner discovers herself in my blog and apologizes for listening to a book on tape.

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