There’s a lot of fun to be had whilst traveling in London, and my newest hobby is listening to the music which other passengers play through their mobile phones.
Now, some might say that playing mp3s through a speaker half the size of a postage stamp (with all the tinniness of a 1970s transistor radio blaring out Radio 1 on Medium Wave) is rather rude. An intrusion, perhaps, on the private space of other passengers, challenging them to say something and risk making a scene.
I disagree. It’s free music – plus, you have to conclude that the person playing the music, doesn’t think it’s a tube or bus journey, oh no, uh-uh. Your trip, obviously, is a music video. Yes, all the other passengers are extras in the drama of their lives, and so it needs a soundtrack.
There is, of course, a bit of a worry in that much of this music is utterly inappropriate to travelling – most of it’s hip-hop or R&B, in my experience – which rather suggests that the player of the music is perhaps trying to do too much, and even attempting to change their whole environment.
You see, most of the videos accompanying these songs take place at dimly-lit parties in spacious homes, on beaches where thong-wearing women shake their booty, or in clubs with migraine-inducing lightshows and glass-topped bars. Those are just examples, but my point is: these videos rarely take place on public transport.
Granted, some of them feature open-topped cars or limousines cruising along the streets, but they are – correct me if I’m wrong – not set on the number 30 bus, or a Northern Line tube. So playing the soundtrack to suggest that you see the bus journey as something from 50 Cent’s film, or a Jay-Z video, is a bit off the mark, isn’t it ?
In fact, it’s a bit delusional really, and I do rather worry that by playing music which doesn’t even vaguely match with the immediate setting, these folks might (even subconsciously) make themselves aware of how their life isn’t actually at all like that of their musical idols. And that might make them feel a little sad.
Then again, the vast majority of other passengers had probably already concluded that these phone-toting folks were pretty sad anyway, though for rather different reasons.