Twist my arm

The iPod: it’s something that most of us depend on for our daily commute. More often than not it allows us a few moments of escape from the dreariness of winter skies, underground tunnels, and crowded trams. What we listen to will likely depend on our mood, but, really, it’s usually determined by our personality.

I sometimes wonder what you could tell about a person by what they’re listening to in their most vulnerable moments of perceived privacy. I’ve often caught myself looking around a few times to make sure that no one can hear the embarrassing crap in my ears. We all have a song or two (or nine) on our devices that are the guiltiest of pleasures. Surely we’d all turn a deep shade of red if anyone ever heard what was playing. Those are the moments I wish I could eavesdrop on my fellow commuters.

Well, as luck would have it, through mail order from the Ukraine I was able to get my hands on a premium, one-of-a-kind piece of equipment. I won’t bore you with the schematics of installation, but, in short, it allows me to use my headphones to tune into the frequencies of any iPod within five feet.

Last Thursday I took it out for a spin. I wanted to see if it was fifty bucks well spent – And boy, was it ever! As I suspected, there was no shortage of fulfilled expectations.

The Euro guys – fuzzy-lined jackets and white capris – were primarily listening to shitty beats. Most of the high school girls were blasting top 40 pop from the US, or similar sounding Czech and Slovak equivalents … not much there. The metal-heads were blasting Metallica and those in khaki and wrinkled white shirts had Phil Collins, Coldplay, or something equally meek. Though there were a few surprises.

I tuned into one skinhead looking motherfucker who was standing next to me at a crosswalk. He had a stone-eyed stare locked across the street and I was expecting to hear some shitty and gritty Czech Oi! punk. Instead I got Lady Gaga, Poker Face.

The light turned green and he took gigantic steps, covering an impressive amount of ground with each bound, hands in his pockets the entire time. I tried to keep up – to maintain my signal – but it was to no avail; he was much too fast for me. The pa-pa-pa-poker face part was the last thing I could hear clearly before it faded. Pity.

Later that afternoon, I was riding an escalator to the surface of the metro. This came after a failed attempt at subterranean interception. For whatever reason, this Ukrainian device of mischief and madness won’t work underground any better than a mobile phone would. But, on the way up, I was standing behind a woman. It took me a while to realize the obvious – that’s no woman, that’s a nun – full habit and all. A nun, there she was, bobbing her head. What’s she listening too? Lemme check.

Huh. A nun. Nodding along to Slayer. Righteous.

Standing at a tram stop I was surrounded by four or five others with visible white or black earbuds. “It’s been a long day, mostly unproductive, and most of it in another language, but hey, might as well try one more time, you never know what you’ll get,” I thought to myself. So I did just that, fiddling around with my new toy until I could tune into something recognizable. Most of it was foreign language gibberish that I couldn’t make out (Czech podcasts, maybe?), or needlessly intense hip-hop (probably Slovakian), but still nothing of any value to me.

I thought, “Oh well, looks like another failed endeavor.” (That’s right…I think words I would never say). Then, right before giving up, I heard a guitar riff that rang bells in my brain. “Hold on a minute … What is that?”

Dananadis-chickensloooow – somethingsomething-littlebaaones

“Why that’s the Tragically Hip is what that is! That can only mean one thing … Canadian!”

But who was it? This tram is almost full, it could be almost any one of these fools. Okay, Sergio. Time to use your innate knowledge of Canucks and your acquired knowledge of Czech culture. I scanned down the seats with my eyes and tried to use all of my cunning to break the case.

Let’s see … bald-headed man with a round body in a Tři Sestry shirt, probably Czech.
Reading a book with foreign letters… Maybe not Czech but probably not Canadian.
Unnecessarily revealing blouse and skirt on a cold January day … probably Czech, and thank you again.
Furry hat for a cold January day – Russian. No doubt in my mind.
Japanese girl … could be the Canadian, but … no … no, she’s not wearing any headphones. Hmm…
That old guy without teeth is asleep and…

There he is. Canadian! I could spot it from a mile away. I’m shocked I didn’t notice it sooner. I’m equally surprised that my Canadar (that’s Canadian-radar … it’s this thing that all Canadians have that alerts you of any other Great White Northerners in the vicinity) didn’t pick him up earlier. It must be this mild winter air wreaking havoc on the apparatus. Anyhow, there he sat, looking out the window in a Green MEC rain coat, fingerless Thinsulate gloves, and corresponding MEC backpack.

I walked over and tapped him on the shoulder. He looked at me, took off his headphones and gazed up curiously. “Hey man, I’m Sergio, how bout that Kessel-Lupol line?” I said.

“Huh, pretty good this year, eh?” He nodded.
“Yeahman”
“Hey, wanna beer?”
“Oh, sorry, but I’ve got work. Maybe after? A few hours though?”
“Cool,” I replied.

He handed me his card. I gave him mine and got off at the next stop. I needed to do some errands. After all, I’d wasted most of my day. I put my earphones back in and my iPod was still intercepting his tunes. I heard him switch to a cover (I couldn’t put my finger on who did it) of Sudbury Saturday Night as the tram pulled away.

This thing has already gotten its fifty bucks worth.

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