Headphones? Please.

Nate Smith

Riding The Rapid is always an interesting experience. I ride the bus every day and I love it. You see, public transportation is a dice roll… and I’m a man of chance.

Every time I step on that bus, there’s no telling what kind of ride I’m going to have and I love that. Sometimes I get the bus all to myself. Sometimes I’m cozying up with a guy muttering to himself that smells like urine. Both of these situations are interesting in their own way. Win/win.

I’ve noticed, however, that there are two types of people that ride bus: those that wear headphones and those that don’t. While it may seem like a very minute difference, they illustrate a distinct difference in bus riding philosophy.

You see, when I don’t have my headphones on I’m open to the elements. There’s no ‘sorry I didn’t hear you’ vacant stare straight ahead when people attempt to talk to me. Armed with nothing but my crippling awkwardness, I’m forced to interact with anybody who desires my attention. I’ve become the Bear Grylls of awkward small talk. Oh, you want to talk about 50 Shades of Grey for the next 20 minutes? Sure….why not.

There is one caveat to this, however: riding during peak hours. There’s nothing worse than overhearing four to five verbal train wrecks at once while trying to reach your destination. I’ve heard some of the worst pickup lines, offensive bits of homophobic political jargon and personal hygiene stories while riding the bus during peak times. It’s moments like these when headphones are absolutely necessary.

Wearing headphones on the bus is a mixed bag. Yes, you can catch up on your favorite podcasts, but you run the risk of missing out on the possibility of an awesome conversation. While I’ve had some of the strangest conversations in my life on the bus, I’ve also met some of the coolest people ever. I seriously had a 30-minute conversation with a guy about Evil Spock’s goatee in season two, episode four of “Star Trek.” You can’t make that kind of stuff up.

When it comes down to it, talking to somebody for the first time is a great excuse for things to be awkward. I need all of the excuses I can get on that front. So headphones are off…for now.
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