Tuesday night I went into Manhattan to meet Stefan Kulla and Sascha Bereksasi for dinner. They’re friends of mine from Germany who were passing through New York on the way home to Frankfurt.
I rode the “E” Train from The World Trade Center to 34th Street at about 6:30pm. As the train moved up through Lower Manhattan, I noticed that about one passenger in three in my car was listening to something on an Apple iPod. This was a bit of a shock to me, since I haven’t ridden the New York Subway during rush hour in a long time.
New York commuting is often an intensely private experience. When I worked in Lower Manhattan prior to 9/11, I was a voracious audio book listener. It was the only way to stay literate. After spending two hours getting to work and eight to nine hours at work, I didn’t want to have to maintain the level of concentration necessary to read something. Audio book listening is slightly less mentally engaging than reading. If I really wanted to escape and relax, I’d switch to music. Many of my fellow riders on the E Train on Tuesday appeared to be going the relaxation route.
I never pointed out the article that appeared in Newsweek in July where Steven Levy called the U.S. an iPod Nation, but it’s easy to come up with a similar characterization if you ride the Subway at the right time of day.