I don’t always have my iPod on when I’m on the subways, but I do find it difficult to be in the car for any length of time without it. The radio will suffice for a short ride, but for anything over 20 or 30 minutes, I really want to have that control over what I’m listening to.
Some researchers and bloggers have said that listening to your own music while commuting is a way of handling stress and boredom, and I suppose that’s true.
But of course there are stresses that come from listening while commuting too: in a car, you still need to be aware of sounds outside the car, especially emergency vehicles, or possibly a police car trying to pull you over because you just got so in sync with that great bass line that you were topping 80 without even knowing it. And anyone who grew up in New York City in the 70s learned early on that it was important to have all your senses on alert when on the subway, because that was really your best bet for getting anywhere safely. That lesson is a hard one to unlearn.
Also, the music I’d most want to hear when I’m stressed out – say, one of the Bach cello suites or a choral work by Arvo Pärt, or even some of Brian Eno’s ambient pieces – just don’t work in most commuting situations. You need something loud enough to compete with the ambient sound without turning the iPod volume up to ear-threatening levels. Still, all that commuting time is just asking to be put to use, and for me, it’s a chance to listen to things I don’t have to listen to for work.
For today, a gray Monday morning after a washed out weekend, it was the album Stay Positive by the Hold Steady.
What do you listen to while commuting?