Aha, Mr Jobs: methinks I have found a crucial flaw in the design of your mighty iPod. Walking with it is well-nigh impossible. Why didn’t that come up at any of your market research review meetings, eh?
At first, all seems straightforward. It is one of the rare occasions that I’ve had to forego use of the car, and hence walk the mile and a half from the train station to home. Walking in office clothes (especially office shoes) is uncomfortable and boring. The scenery of Oxford Road is likewise not calculated to lift the heart and refresh the mind. To the rescue comes the iPod – surround yourself in a bubble of your own musical taste and the time will flash by.
The first pitfall presented itself as soon as I pressed the play button. I surely can’t be the only one incapable of walking to music without walking in time to the music. Yet there are surprisingly few songs that fit my walking pace. Slightly too fast and I end up striding like a demented wind-up robot, all straight legs and manic expression. This looks stupid, and there are cars around, with people in them. Stop, and change the song. Much too slow and I have a chance of walking at double speed. This is just about acceptable if I conduct the down-beat with a free hand (note: this must be done subtly; see above comment re. people in cars). Slightly too slow is worst of all: I’m forced to adopt a hip-swinging, come-hither swagger that says nothing so much as ‘At home, I practice being Jessica Rabbit in front of the mirror’.
Which brings me to the second pitfall: walking with music playing in the ear blocks out grimy reality, and replaces it with your very own soundtrack, making you the star of an edgy, yet strangely uneventful urban Broadway musical in which passing the tattoo shop is the climax of the first act. As such I find it hard not to adopt the emotion of whatever song happens to be playing, whether it be passionate cheerfulness or forlorn heartache. Much to the consternation of passing cyclists, I’m sure. I am mostly successful in refraining from singing out loud (although I couldn’t prevent a triumphant ‘Soooooometiiiimes’ from escaping me this afternoon just before the roundabout); however, the temptation to break into a set of skip-ball-changes with coordinating arm waves (see anything involving Gene Kelly for an example) is becoming dangerously attractive.
You see what you’ve done, Mr Jobs? One of these days I’m going to skip-ball-change myself under an articulated lorry, and then you might give a bit more thought to what happens when you put music in people’s heads. Tsk.