Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Happy geek in gadget-love

Warning: Long story with happy geek-ending.

Sure, travelling on business class at the occasional random upgrade is nice, if you're picky about your food, British Airways isn't the one you want to be on, or if you're picky about the way you are addressed by the staff and don't want to be called "love" and "hun", then by all means stay clear of Continental. For handsome men watching, go Air France, Air Canada or Quantas, and if you have a thing for truly beautiful women, Singapore Airlines is your best bet. But if you, like me, travel with whatever gives you the best price and the best connections, then these things are pretty much outside of your control.

Yesterday I discovered something which was not.

But let's start at the beginning, and the beginning is almost 27 years back in time. That's when I met this young man who was sweet, smart, funny, sporty and sexy, and on top of that had a great taste in books and music. After a year or so of making him realise what a good thing it would be to hang out with me, we moved in together in Bergen. That's when something I had never realised I missed was introduced in my life: music which was not played by a live orchestra or did not randomly happen off the radio.

Since then I have been surrounded with it, and mostly stuff I really like. When the kids joined in, the music played in the home changed and expanded, and there was always something, so much in fact that NOT having music on all the time became a relief, a signal to me that I was alone, I could focus on my own things, I was at peace.

It only took a month of living alone to realise it was a bit too peaceful. I felt a very unfamiliar, powerful urge to listen to music, and I started thinking about the kind of music I wanted and liked, and how nice it is to have the option of making it happen.

This lead to an excursion into Akihabara in Tokyo, where I came out with a bag full of iPod Nano's. I can't buy something like that only for myself, you know - I have been a mom for 21 years, it's a hard habit to shake, if I even wanted to.

Finally home in Volda, I could start uploading the stuff I wanted. For a while I revelled in picking only my music, and found that listening to an iPod is perfect for long boring bus rides for instance to Molde. The disappointment was huge when I got on the plane to Trondheim. The little apple earbuds couldn't do anything about the ambient noise generated by air engines, and I really couldn't hear much. Having to turn the sound all the way up to hear anything made me realise how much the background noise exhausts me on airplanes. I tend to wear headphones when ever I can, just to hear something other than the drone of the engine, and I get really tired on the long flights.

I didn't know what to do about it, but I started checking other headphones at least. The iPod was still a success, and when the loving sweet men at home discovered that I liked using it, they immediately colonized it. Bye bye dreams of controlling my own music choices... I like that though. After all, both father and son are sufficiently sensitive to know what kind of music I will probably like. Actually, I think they know it better than I do.

Anyway. We were talking about headphones.

I found some really garish looking headphones at the airport, but didn't pick them up, as I was thinking of just getting a pair of Koss portable headphones. Simple, elegant and a good deal at the price, what could go wrong? However, the son, who had already managed to convince me to get a pair for him (see how this mother thing works?), told me to reconsider, as they did nothing to reduce noise from the outside. That's when we stumbled over noise cancelling headphones.

OK, you have indulged my rambling about my wonderful family for long enough now. The keyword is: skullcandy. Those garish headphones I had noticed are produced for extreme sports fans, and built to last while snowboarding or sliding down rails in the mall - no matter what, skullcandy wants you to do it. That includes beating your boyfriend mercilessly. Hmmm. Luckily the headphones I found at the airport in Oslo, called Proletariat, look like an undercover skullcandy set. They are noise cancelling headphones at less than half the price of for instance a Bose headset. Are they as good? I don't know, but they worked well enough to make a difference for me. After the young lady at the store had broken the heavy plastic wrapping open, and we had extracted the headphones and their little travelling bag, the airplane connection plug AND the two AAA batteries that came with the headphones, I assembled, plugged, turned on - and felt my shoulders drop.

It is a difference. I got on the plane to Stockholm and hated having to turn the headphones off when the "fasten seatbelt" sign came on. I hated it even worse on the propel plane from Stockholm to Umeå. I am going to have to sacrifice some of my habitual hand-luggage to bring them with me, but these are coming on the planes with me, in all foreseeable future. I used to sniff with a touch of disdain at the people who felt such a need of high fidelity that they brought their own headphones on the plane. No more - I suddenly know what they are bringing; a chance to escape that endless, exhausting drone, a chance to let the shoulders drop and some other sounds to penetrate. Travelling as much as I do, this is one of the things that makes a difference no matter what company I travel with, where I go, how the seats or the service are. I can use them with the iPod, the computer, the games, the airplane television and radio, the only problem is that they are a little too bulky for comfortable sleeping, but I am sure I am going to manage that too. After all, I am in love with those headphones, and love makes the strangest things comfortable.


kuroyume said...

hi, i just found your blog via wowinsider.com, and came across this post.

Glad to see you have discovered the wonders of headphones. If you want to continue down that road, i suggest you visit head-fi.org, where you will find a great community to talk about such things.

About your concerns with the bulkiness of your current phones, you can buy in ear monitors (the kind that musicians use on stage) that will be more comfortable to sleep on, and still have passive noise cancellation, which means no more batteries, since they don't cancel the noise, instead they isolate you from it.

Torill said...

Thanks, but the wonder about the noise cancelling headphones was that they did cancel the noise, but I could still hear the important stuff. I have tried in-ear monitors and while they do insulate to a certain extent, it just isn't the same. The feeling of relief as the buzz of engines dropped was so incredible, but I could still get announcements and voices.