February 7th, 2005

When I'm Bad I'm Better

I Pod therefore I am.

Thanks to a sizeable bonus from work, I am now a proud member of the iPod society. I got the 20G model - I figure the difference between 4 and 20 gigs is significant, and the difference between 20 and 40 is just redundant. I spent a good chunk of time this weekend transferring my music, after a bit of confusion loading the software. iPod thumbed its digital nose at my OS, insisting that it refuses to run on anything less than Windows 2000. I have Windows 2000, and was mildly offended at my iPod's suggestion my system was not up to its snuff. With the benefit of doubt, I checked with Microsoft, and apparently I had 58 "critical" Windows Updates to complete. I apologized to my iPod, vowing never to doubt it again.

I squealed with delight and warmed inside with a sense of commonality when I saw someone else resting their iPod on the counter at the coffee shop the other day, and said, "I joined the iPod club the other day!" He, and another person in earshot congratulated me on my decision and told me how my life will be forever changed.

The box the iPod comes in features the same shadowed figures as on the commercials wearing their white ear buds. It's a striking image: neon background, black figures, white cords. They're quite possibly the only if not the most commonly seen white headphones around - an instant identifier of what is at the end of the line. Especially in this season of black wool overcoats, the white cords stand out almost as much as they do on the box.

Today was the first day I used my new iPod on my commute, and I found myself paying more attention to the white cords. I've never been too big a fan of the inside-ear style headphones, so I used a set I had previously. Incognito iPod. Granted, I always feel like I'm on a spy mission when I walk around listening to music, as if I'm the star of some video and everyone is trying to pretend not to pay attention to me, even though I know they know. Maybe I get the feeling people are staring at me when I have headphones on because I'm smirking the whole time about being in a spy video and they probably are. I'm sure they don't think I'm a spy, just some doofus pretending to be all smooth and stuff.

Anyhoo, incognito: I realize the disconnect between my own admitted "belonging" in the group of iPod owners and my refusal to bear the crest. It is a status symbol: I have $300 to spend on a gadget and music is important enough for me to do so. I looked at the other commuters with standard black or grey headphones and wondered if they, like myself, had real iPods in their pockets. Do they not find the buds comfortable or was there more at stake? Like all things, does a front-page cover story in USAToday officially "play" the iPod? What does it mean to wear or not to wear the white cord?
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