Earphones

Posted: April 6, 2010 in ADHD, Life
Tags: , , , ,

Apparently, business travellers are prone to deviant behaviour.

I attended a film yesterday, and the above was the explanation offered by the film’s police desk sergeant to a woman whose husband was killed in a hotel room after he apparently made raging sexual advances to a female police officer.

That was only one of a number of unintentionally funny comments made by straight-faced actors in this supposed drama. I wish I could tell you the name of the film but it escapes me. I’m a business traveller on occasion. The only really deviant behaviour happens in my head, where thoughts fuck each other like bunnies, and produce crowds and crowds of little baby bunny thoughts. The curse (or blessing) of the ADD afflicted exploding mushroom brain. But that happens when I’m at home just as much as when I’m on the road.

It happens at work too.

“Sir, I’ve noticed that you have your earphones plugged in all the time. Is that your way of keeping other people at bay?”

I took out my earphones. “Excuse me?”

The security guard repeated his question.

I laughed. “Oh dear God no! I like people! I really do.” I thought for a moment. “This is just my way of keeping all the marauding thoughts in my head from overwhelming me.”

He looked at me, one eyebrow raised. (I could never master that. I’ve tried, but each time I’m only able to raise both eyebrows at once, like a sexually suggestive creepy circus performer.)

I elaborated. “Are you familiar with ADD or ADHD?” He indicated he had. “Well, listening to music is a way of letting parts of my mind focus, while another part can concentrate better on the work.” The attempt at explaining the dynamic was valiant, if flawed.

Still, it sufficed. He said “oh. I understand.” Which is more than I can say for myself. Kudos to him.

And why is it that people see these honking in-ear earphones rocking in your ears and still think you can hear them?

Especially bums people of the street. Maybe it’s because they feel they’re predictable and you should know what they want without actually having to hear their words. You scoffing entitled asshole moneyed class, you with your brand new K-Mart sneakers and your oh-so-proud flashy Cubic Zirconium rings, with your “I’ve got a job and you don’t” Cheshire Cat smile.

Don’t know what it is. Maybe I’ve lived in the big city too long. I rarely give money to anyone who outright asks for it. If someone is doing street performance however – I feel grateful for their entertainment and so I’ll throw them a dollar or two. The ones who ask for money though – well, they mouth the words (which I can understand, despite the enticing strains of One Eskimo’s “Kandi” playing in my ears) and I’ll give my customary negative head shake. Some of them respond with “God bless you” which I suppose is better than “fucking asshole”. The thinly disguised attempted guilt-provoking sarcastic response has no hook on me. I’m a red-sun Superman charity giver walking down the street of a largely impotent yellow-sun world.

Maybe some of the people living on the street are there legitimately. Maybe they just wouldn’t make it in the working world. Clearly, some of them would make lousy salesmen. Especially those who come up with a long-winded setup to enhance their begging agenda.

“Sir, I live in Shitsville, Florida, and I’ve lost my passport and wallet to thieves. My wife kicked me out and I came up here to start a new life but now without my wallet I can’t even get to the next city over for a job interview tomorrow so I wonder if….”

“You would like some money.”

“Yes, sir, if you wouldn’t mind.”

“Sorry”.

He looks so disgruntled as he turns away to try his story on someone else. He hasn’t learned the salesman’s most important lesson: know your audience. He should have picked an openly pleasant smiling naïve person, not me. I’ve gotten so good at deflecting these stories that if I don’t hear what this stranger wants within the first seven words I’ll cut him off and say “look, what do you want?” It’s disconcerting and it interrupts the flow of their carefully crafted con, but it works for me.

I’m trying not to say “sorry” but it’s hard. “Sorry” is a Canadian trait, you understand. It’s in our DNA. We offer it at the slightest provocation, at the mere wisp of a glancing touch. We don’t *want* to say it, but we’re often helpless. It’s not politeness. It’s a reflex.

A blonde jogger was standing at the condiment station at a Starbucks when I was putting cream in my coffee. She wanted a napkin so she reached over me and said “sorry”. Recognizing the impulse I smiled and said “no you’re not.” She grinned. “No, I suppose I”m not”. I cocked my head (which is easier to do than you’d think) and replied “funny how we always do that”. She stirred her coffee, before taking a sip. “Yes. Don’t know why though.” I shrugged. “We’re Canadian”. She nodded, smiling.

Maybe saying sorry to a street person is a form of anticipatory proactive safety. If you say what you really think (“fuck off! I’m tired of people like you asking for some of the money I made working every day, while you get welfare and free meals whenever you want, and I know you just want it for your extras, like booze and drugs. You made a choice, bub, not like the beggars in India who have no choice but to sit out there on the street with their missing limbs and missing teeth. Hey, here’s a thought – gain some credibility – saw off an arm or a leg. You might find people will give you more. I tried giving one of you a meal voucher the other day and he told me to go fuck myself, so now I’m telling you do to the same, aiight?”), you might be asking for trouble. Really, is it worth it getting into a fist fight with a stranger because you don’t want to give him a dollar?

No, it’s not worth it. “Sorry” is better.

I’m not though.

Other people accost me on the street while I’m wearing these obvious noise-cancelling earphones. (Seriously these Shure earphones stick way out of my ears. They’re obvious, like a pair of muddy work boots sitting on an otherwise pristine dining room table is obvious.) Invariably, someone who is new to the city will avoid other walkers and make his way to me, the ONLY person wearing earphones, to ask for directions.

I don’t mind, not at all. But I am curious. Why me? Maybe this is God’s way of tilting the world game so that the only rolling quester can’t help but bump into me.

Sometimes the constant earphones work against me too. Like when I see the gorgeous woman on the subway and we exchange smiles, and I can’t get the earphones out fast enough without looking desperate. By the time I’ve maintained my cool by taking them out gradually, she’s gone. (Don’t ask me how to take out earphones gradually. It’s just possible. Take my word for it.)

Still, I love my music and my earphones. I love how it stills some of the chaos-storm in my head.

Comments
  1. I thank ’em profusely when they start their begging spiel and then wish them all the luck in the world with a great big smile on my face.

    Next time I see ’em I don’t give ’em a chance to open up because I tell ’em how good it is to see ’em

    Works well, but i thnk some may actually think I know them from a previous life.

    contoveros

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    • I think that’s a great approach.

      The whole begging/conning thing is a limited work of art. I’m certain of it. The higher functioning ones are those who attempt the long-spieled cons. Only the pedestrian ones ask for “spare change” and the truly down-and-out depressed ones don’t say anything at all – they just stand there with their cup or hat held out. (And, depending upon how I read them, some of these are the only ones who receive money from me).

      Some of the long-winded spiel ones will graduate to working door-to-door, working the neighbourhood, looking for naive old people, offering them “sure” deals…..

      I once saw an interesting twist on begging, performed by two street people, a man and a woman. They would get on a subway and, after the doors closed, the woman would stand in the middle of the aisle and *scream* “I’M HOMELESS!’ . Then she’d gather some air, open her lungs and bellow ‘HELP ME!!!” while staring wildly at the passengers. She would continue this behaviour while her partner went around, asking for money from people.

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  2. My hearing aids work for me. I just say my batteries just went dead and I can’t hear a word you are saying.

    I used to feel bad about not giving money until I found out that so many beggars claim an intersection and they are there every day with the same sign, or same spiel. I also found that once you give, you become a target.

    I don’t like being a target.

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    • For the most part, it’s a big scam. People who prey on others using a time-tested tool: guilt. I once sat in the back of an hour long city-to-city commute. A couple of girls were sitting across the aisle from me, and up a few rows. I overheard them making plans to go begging in the city.

      Kind of sickening.

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  3. Randy says:

    I like how you interwove 4 distinct subjects into one narrative, and made it very entertaining. You ARE going to write that book, I just know it. :)

    My take on ‘street giving’ is exactly the same as yours, so no use repeating. Street busking is a way of life out here, so one can have their changepurse lightened substantially just with an afternoon strolling downtown!

    Take care, bud. Cheers!

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    • Thanks Randy. You know – the intent wasn’t to talk about four different things – that just happened. I wanted to talk about just one thing (and it wasn’t earphones) but …… it just sort of happened this way and I decided not to fight it. :)

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  4. Just Kate says:

    My kids who have ADD and ADHD constantly listen to music while they’re doing homework. I used to think it was because they weren’t really attending to their work, but I quickly learned that it helps them focus, exactly as you said. I’m the opposite. I cannot concentrate unless I have quiet. I hate the feeling of having too many things vying for attention inside my head. It’s already a busy enough place without the extra NOISE adding to it.

    If I have time, I’ll stop and talk to beggars and homeless folks. I’m always interested in their stories. I don’t say “sorry,” albeit I do tend to apologize to tables when I bump into them and other people when they bump into me (no, I’m not Canadian). I’ll simply smile or give a wave and keep going. I always make eye contact. Rarely ever do I receive a cross word. Mostly, I get smiles back.

    By the way, I balk at the idea of all beggars being scam artists. I won’t paint my world in stark black and white; it’s really rather un-Canadian of you to do so. You’re suppose to make excuses for EVERYONE. I’m totally disillusioned. ;) And don’t try to tell me you were being sarcastic about sawing limbs off and all that. You’re a hard-hearted bastard.

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    • She tagged you there, Wolf.

      But you are so Un-Canadian in other ways too. You are way too outspoken is one example. Maybe saying you are Canadian is part of your disguise so that your boss doesn’t find out who you are. 8)

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      • My boss is outspoken too, so I don’t know if I would fool him for a minute. :) A lot of Canadians really are outspoken. We just use a lot of social niceties when we’re ripping someone a new one. Like this:

        “Get the hell out of the fast lane when I’m trying to pass. Please, and thank you. Sincerely.” (I don’t know how to interpret the raised middle finger though. That behaviour may very well be an abrogation of our Canadian identity.)

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    • What you describe with you and your kids (and what I’ve described in myself) are fairly classic symptoms. Some people with ADD or ADHD need the quiet in order to maintain focus and others need the background noise – or even white noise – to keep them on track. And sometimes, within the same person that need can vacillate. Go figure, huh?

      I wonder what it’s like where you live, with the homeless and all. Here in Toronto the homeless community is thriving. It has become an industry of sorts. It used to be that only the odd person was homeless, and usually that person was pretty destitute and it was obvious. Lately we’re seeing very healthy younger folk out there. It strains my credulity when I see a a young guy with an expensive haircut, wearing a leather jacket, smoking cigarettes while he holds onto the leash of a large dog, sitting there begging for change. Hard to take him seriously. Add to that the sheer numbers of people, all wanting to stop you so that they can tell you their story, and you can get a feel for why my tolerance is dwindling rapidly. The Toronto downtown section is getting nearly as busy as any average street in Manhattan. It’s cold, and you can barely make your way through the crowds from one block to the other, and THEN you have these healthy individuals walking up and wanting to accost you.

      I can’t help comparing those to others I know who are truly destitute and in need of help. There is no comparison. The first group gets my attention. The second group gets….something a little less than attention. *grin*

      Hopefully I didn’t paint all beggars as con artists. Some, like the ones I mentioned (and know) who just stand there, seemingly depressed and completely out of it, also get my attention. I may blog about one of them one day.

      And yes, I’m a hard-hearted bastard. *laughing*

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      • Just Kate says:

        This first bit is directed at Roger up there! As a fiscally conservative-leaning, socially liberal-leaning American (aka: “right wing Wacko” by Canadian standards) with several Canadian friends, I can attest to the fact that most Canadians are, in my experience, unabashedly passionate and outspoken when it comes to things like politics. Canadians as a whole are more vehement about American politics than Americans are. I see them as being VERY outspoken.

        It’s partly why I’m so astounded by Wolfie’s lack of sensitivity to the plight of the homeless. Speechless, really. He should be willing to give them the shirt right off his neighbor’s back! ;P

        (I’m cracking myself up over here!)

        As for you, Wolfish One, where I live beggars are generally homeless people, frequently and unfortunately military veterans or suffering from mental illness. A couple of times my oldest son and I took a bunch of clothes to a nearby freeway overpass and passed them out to the guys there. We saw them wearing those coats and hats and gloves all winter long. There’s no doubt that they had nothing. Yes, occasionally, we’ll see them with a Starbucks coffee, cigarettes, or a well-fed dog, but I’m never sure just how those things happened, so I don’t try to guess. I’m sure many people are running scams. The majority of people I encounter are as unfortunately authentic as it gets.

        I don’t live in an urban area. That could be difference. I’ve seen exactly what you’re referring to in cities around the world. I STILL think it’s terribly un-Canadian of you to care about the authenticity of their need!! What’s up with that?!

        ;)

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        • It just occurred to me: we *have* become quite vocal about American politics, especially recently. We take such severe umbrage at some of those Southern senators who have liberally (*ahem*) painted our entire country as a big old Communist trap – to be shunned by good-thinking Americans. The catalyst for this nonsense was the health care debate. Man, do we get ornery when that subject comes up.

          I don’t know if I can find an adequate comparison. It’s like us insulting the concept of Mom and Apple Pie for Americans – we take our precious health care system that seriously. In everything else of course we are rabid capitalists, but in this *one* social net area, we brook no fiddling. When someone even hints at a two-tier system on our side of the border, where some can pay for extra special care, we go up in flames. It’s amazing to see (and quite heartening to be honest).

          So of course when someone from the U.S. comments “it takes y’all about five months to get in to get cancer treatment” we take that as a major uniformed slap in the face. It’s not true, but it gets parrotted often enough on your side of the border that too many people take the myth seriously. And oh dear Lord does it ever piss us off! (Look at me – I’m getting hot just thinking about it)

          Wow.

          ANYWAY…. *ahem*

          Wait. I just read what you said about what I should do with respect to the homeless, and I find myself nodding hysterically. The shirt off of my *neighbour’s* back? ABSOLUTELY!

          What you describe as homeless where you live is far far different than what you’ll find here. If ever I discover a homeless veteran (and let’s be clear: two words like that just should not exist. It’s an abomination in such freedom loving countries as ours), I would bend over backward to give them an assist. And I don’t care if anyone wastes it on cigarettes, their dog or their haircut. It would be the very *least* of what I could do. These guys deserve every good thing we can give them. Period.

          The rest of them – I would be willing to kick in some cash to send them on a fact-finding tour of the slums of India. I don’t know how many would benefit but I’m guessing it would widen their eyes considerably.

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          • wordofabe says:

            Ooh! I believe I am one of those who made a poking/jabbing/ill-informed comment about waiting for a doctor’s appointment. Sorry! Ack! Now I am starting to sound Canadian. Let me correct it by saying something nice about Canada. I really like your rest stops! There are so many of them, even out in the middle of nowhere. And CPB radio exists in the oddest spots in the wilderness.

            Forgiven? I didn’t know.

            Like

            • *laughing* Honest – I wasn’t even thinking about your earlier comment (though the fact that I can remember it is telling, isn’t it? *grin*). Seriously – I know you were joking.

              I do read a lot of serious worried comments from some folk on your side of the border though, and I have to admit to being a little bugged about it. There’s just so much misinformation going around and being spouted by politicians. Not just R’s either : lots of Ds are getting in on the action.

              In another conference that I play in, one guy just came out and asked some honest questions instead of making assumptions. That was refreshing. A few of us got a chance to let him know how it is in our neck of the woods.

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              • wordofabe says:

                It’s okay. I was just getting back at a group of Candians who attended a firefighting training seminar with me. They came across the border to take the class and stayed at the same hotel as me. When they got drunk (which was frequently :) they told me how much America sucked a**. Then they watched hockey and drank some more. Unfortunately, I didn’t know enough about Canada to say anything insulting back.

                Speaking of knowing stuff about Canada, last night I watched “I’m Your Man”, the documentary about Leonard Cohen and the tribute concert that was put together for him by a group of fellow Canadians. I have to admit, I didn’t know that Bono from U2 was Canadian, but I guess some of you guys have an Irish lilt. Anyway, it was an awesome movie! What a cool guy.

                Like

                • Ah, now you see – that’s embarrassing. It seems we have our fair share of knee-jerk individuals on our side of the border who swallow whole what the media feeds them. (Using the word “individuals” here out of politeness – I had another, much better name for them all picked out).

                  The media says that with every U.S. TV show that gets beamed across the border we lose a piece of our Canadian identity – which I think is utter hogwash (again, I had a better term for it). Or that every time our Prime Minister agrees with your President, well it’s just the Damned Americans again, being arrogant.

                  Those people make me ashamed, actually. It’s tiresome, silly and stupid when they do this.

                  I see as as kindred nations, and that fact was brought home in full force after 9/11. Seems a few of us forgot though. Ugh.

                  Like

  5. wordofabe says:

    “I’m a red-sun Superman charity giver walking down the street of a largely impotent yellow-sun world.”
    Indeed. Nicely said.

    I love the stories. I usually don’t have time for it, but I have been known to give money for a good story that is obviously false but is so patently impossible that I just hand over some coin. I will also tell them, “that is the best story I’ve heard yet! Good job!”

    On the other hand, I have been known to get very angry when I have started to help someone out of a jam by giving them some gas, then watch as they turn to another stranger and ask for the exact same thing that I am giving them. Boy, that gets me hot!

    What do you listen to on those headphones?

    Like

    • The headphones send me all kinds of music: rock, alternative, jazz, some classical. Everything, I think, except country.

      I passed one guy on the subway system recently who was begging for money and saying that he needed bus fair to get home. The next day I passed him at the exact same spot, and he was using the exact same line. *shrugs* Not very bright, that. You’d think he’d at least change his location, so as not to encounter the same crowds.

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      • wordofabe says:

        My anger experience was with two women at a rest stop saying they needed money for gas to get to the nearest town to check into the women’s shelter in time to see their kids. I fell for it and was going to give them gas out of the can I had with me (it would have got them to town). As I untied the can from the trailer, she turned to one of my employees as they walked up from the bathroom and asked them for gas money, giving the same line. I got angry and asked her what the hell? Wasn’t I giving her gas already? Then her story got more complicated and I told her I wouldn’t give it to her because she was full of crap. Yeah! Mad.

        A good story is a filthy man in a rest area on the freeway saying he needs money to get to a job interview. I like that one.

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  6. Just Me says:

    Wow, I can see I’m slow to comment on blogs lately, ha. I always like giving money to the creative ones. When I was in Toronto recently I saw the same guy for a week straight and he had the usual sob story on his sign that he was carrying, which I basically just ignored as I walked past him. But then on the last day I was there he had changed his sign to “Can you spare 5 1/2 cents?”, which I thought was hilarious for some reason. Of course I had to stop and talk to him and he told how he wasn’t getting any money because nobody had the 1/2 cent. Hahaha. We had a long conversation and he was pretty funny I have to say. So I gave him some money……not 5 1/2 cents mind you but still. I’m not sure that’s the most appropriate way to choose who should get my money, but you have to have some criteria, right?

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  7. suzrocks says:

    God another one I missed. Damn these computer issues! I like this. I can relate. I live close to a major city, New Orleans. Any time I’m there, I’m bombarded by beggars and street performers…etc… lots of mimes… I hate mimes. But, I don’t buy into any of this crap. I’ve seen it waaaaaaaaay too many times to believe their sob stories… they just want to go buy a quart of beer really. I have a feeling, at least in the US, the number of beggars is going to grow at the rate things are going here. I watched a special about bums of New Orleans once. They average about $400 a week begging tourists with sob stories. They were bragging about it. Some of them were living comfortably and their career was this begging… isn’t that crazy? Well, compared to welfare, at least I’d know where my money was going if I gave it to one of these lazy f’s. As it is, I’m paying for tons of lazy f’s I’ve never even laid eyes on… but, alas, Obama promises change, and with his change I will have no spare change for any beggars for sure in the very near future. Not only that, but these beggars are going to be forced to go out and find real jobs pretty damn soon which is going to be extremely complicated since there will be no jobs available. I think it’s time to legalize prostitution, among other bad habits… LOL

    Like

    • I hope you’re wrong about the growth of the beggar industry but my gut says you’re not. The weird thing is – up until for many people it’s been a lifestyle choice. There are social safety nets that are there if folk want them. However, with the downturn in the economy and many falling off of unemployment and onto welfare, I think we’re going to see a lot more families living in their cars again. That’s sad.

      You brought up a hot-button issue too: the prioritization of those things the government has specified are illegal and in some cases criminal: prostitution is the one you mentioned but I can think of another – the war on pot. I can support a war on anything else (meth for damned sure, heroin, you name it), but pot is as recreational and as harmful as the use of alcohol. I hear California is finally going to tackle the issue head-on. Good for them. Even our own federal government is now citing stats that say about 55% of the population doesn’t see why we should continue to spend tax dollars fighting people who use pot. I agree. Legalize it and tax the hell out of it. Enough already.

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