Musing On Future Etiquette: Music With No Headphones

Ahhh, those were the days

I really don’t want to think listening to music in public with no headphones (and not in the carrying around a boombox in the park style, I mean blasting music out of your iPhone in a crowded subway) is going to be a thing, but all signs are pointing to it being a thing. Over the past few years I’ve increasingly encountered people playing loud video games, having FaceTime conversations, or listening to music without headphones, and at this point I believe it’s just something we’ll have to deal with. There’s a silver lining though: A BRAVE NEW WORLD OF ETIQUETTE.

Let’s say you’re sitting on the bus, listening to the Hamilton cast recording (like we have been for the last two weeks) with no headphones. Someone comes on the bus listening to another song at a similar volume, and sits next to you. Who is in the position of power here? On one hand, you can say you were there first, and thus deserve to continue listening to your music while the other person has to turn theirs down. On the other, perhaps the rules should go by turns. You had your time, and now this person has theirs.

I hope it will continue to stand that, if someone asks you to turn your music down or to put on headphones, you will. After all, it is still against the rules on most forms of public transportation or in public areas to play amplified music without a permit. But as much as etiquette is about comfort and being a social lubricant and all that, I also think it’s about having some sort of guidelines for everyday behaviors, and those change often. Fifty years ago pulling out your phone during dinner would be incredibly impolite (largely because you shouldn’t flaunt technology you got via your time machine like that), but now we understand that sometimes it happens, and there are polite and impolite ways to check your email with company. Things change, and etiquette needs to change with them.

But also, please use headphones when listening to music in public.

Advanced Public Transportation Etiquette

Warriors_still_NYC_subway.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-largeBy now, I hope all our readers are good with the basic rules of public transportation etiquette. Don’t take up too much room, don’t whack people with your bags, let other people out before you get on, stand up for the sick/elderly/pregnant, move toward the center of the car, etc. I bet you’re all out there taking your subways and buses and trolleys with the best manners. However, I’ve been riding the subway since I can remember, and have seen a number of pretty outlandish things. Here are some that I’ve noticed that I hope you remember not to partake in as well.

  • Don’t sit down and put your feet on a nearby pole, ESPECIALLY if you’re barefoot.
  • Don’t sit on the floor.
  • Don’t set up a baby’s pack-and-play on the floor.
  • Don’t change a diaper on the subway seat.
  • Don’t watch movies on your iPad at full volume with no headphones.
  • Invest in good headphones so I don’t hear your music four seats away.
  • Do not apply hairspray on the subway.
  • Do not apply Victoria’s Secret body spray on the subway.
  • In general don’t wear so much perfume. Some people have bad allergic reactions or are just really sensitive to smell, and when you’re stuck underground in a metal tube next to somebody who has sprayed down every inch of their body it’s just really unpleasant.
  • Go ahead and eat, within reason. If it requires utensils/is hot and smelly, do not eat it, but I’m not one of those people who insists that you cannot bring food on public transportation. Lots of people are busy and work a lot and the bus might be their only chance to eat. Sandwiches, bagels, chips, granola bars, basically anything that can be eaten with one hand and doesn’t smell a lot is good to me.
  • Don’t smoke cigarettes.
  • Don’t smoke pot.
  • Don’t vape.
  • Don’t do coke.
  • Like really we can all tell when you’re trying to do drugs in public and nobody is impressed.
  • Don’t be that drunk person who is running barefoot up and down the car and scream-singing to Katy Perry.
  • Just don’t be barefoot, and please explain to me all these people who decide taking their shoes off on the train is a good idea.
  • Take your trash with you.

How to Be a Considerate Urban Dweller

We firmly believe that city dwellers can be some of the nicest, most polite people out there. After all, you are forced to be in close quarters with hundreds of people every day. You need to learn to read social cues and put others needs above your own. And yes, we all dream of retreating to a ranch in the middle of nowhere where we don’t have to talk to anyone or remember to be nice to the deli guy and we can walk however slowly we want on the sidewalk, but humans are social creatures, and nowhere represents this better than our bustling cities.

That being said, city living doesn’t come naturally to everyone, so here are a few tips on how to handle yourself if you suddenly find yourself in an apartment building in the middle of a metropolis. (Public transportation is a whole conversation unto itself, so we will cover that in depth later!)

  • Remember that there are people around you! Avoid very loud conversations in person or on your phone. Also be aware of music leakage. Even if you’re using headphones, loud music can definitely be heard by those around you. (Also, please use headphones. Do not be that person who is just watching music videos on their phone OUT LOUD.)

  • Sidewalks are the city’s highway, so treat walking as though you were driving. “Pull over” if you need to stop for any reason, don’t just stop dead in the middle of the flow of traffic, especially if you are a group of people. If you are walking and texting, you are NOT walking as fast as you normally do. Try to move out of peoples way. Also, like on roads, keep to the right (or left if you’re in Europe I guess?), especially on stairs, so traffic can flow both ways.

  • Don’t block things! Don’t stop in doorways or at the top, bottom, or middle of subway stairs.

  • Don’t walk three abreast (or more, jeez!) down the sidewalk!

  • Be mindful of your downstairs neighbors and don’t clomp around on your hardwood floors or play very loud music all of the time. On the flip side, be aware that you are living in very close quarters and don’t be too hard on your neighbors unless it is very intrusive and persistent.

  • Be mindful of jaywalking. If you can see cars aren’t coming for a while, then it’s probably safe, but don’t run into the middle of the street if you see someone coming.

  • If you are on a bike, remember you are still a vehicle and obey all traffic laws. No riding against traffic, no running red lights, no biking on the sidewalk.

  • Telling neighbors to quiet down: Doing it in person the first time is probably best, or if you can’t, leave a friendly note. However, I’ve been known to resort to/respond to a few bangs on the ceiling or floor with a broom handle. It’s quick, unobtrusive, and everyone knows what it means.

  • For gods sake pick up your dog poop! There is no excuse not to do this.