March 8th, 2007

It’s Not a Music Machine, It’s a Lifestyle Statement

For a long time, I wanted an MP3 player. (Yes, I’m very late to any and all bandwagons. It’s just who I am.)

It’s true, the idea of carrying around my favorite music is appealing. (Carrying it around without worrying that the rubberband currently holding my Discman closed will slither off and the music come to an abrupt halt is even more appealing.) But that wasn’t why I wanted an MP3 player.

It was subway envy that brought me to this pass.

To me—basically a small-town suburban girl—nothing says Big City more loudly than a fast-moving pedestrian slipping into a subway seat, making eye contact with no one, mouth very definitely not smiling, earbuds firmly in place. And sometimes even a small-town suburban girl would like to give the impression of Big City, MP3 sophistication.

So eager was I to make this impression that last summer, I snapped up the least expensive MP3 player I could find online. So eager was I, it momentarily slipped my mind that all things technological appearing in my house have minds and personalities and little demonic twitches of their own.

I was quickly reminded of this fact, however, when the player refused to play some songs, and stopped playing other songs halfway through, only to switch to the midway point of yet another song.

I forked out six bucks for a money order—as required by the terrible company that makes this terrible product—and shipped it off.

I swiftly received a new one, plunked all my MP3s on it, and began moseying around town faster than ever before, marching in time to the songs on my player. This one lasted a couple of weeks, and then it, too, imploded.

Three times I sent this horrible player back. Because of the way I’d purchased it—not directly from the company, but from a little store affiliated with a major retail website—I couldn’t return it to the company, nor could I exchange it for a different player. My Big City fantasies, which had briefly seemed so close to realization, were just as far from reality as ever.

At last I broke down and bought a real MP3 player. It cost twice as much as the first one, but it didn’t have a horrible “joystick” to maneuver through the music. The screen was in color. It came with a long, long warrantee. (Oddly, it made uploading music into an ordeal that still prevents me from a solid night’s sleep and has kept me from buying any new CDs for fear of ripping and then attempting to upload the music. Is it wrong for me to think I should be able to put the songs where I want them on the player? Evidently it is. But all things considered, I’m pretty pleased with it.)

And then, at long, long last, the chance to live out my fantasy arrived.

I had to take the train to an authentic Big City. Suburban girl loose in Los Angeles. How very “My Baby Takes the Morning Train” of me, no?

So last month I plunked on my headphones (evidently my ears were not built to accommodate earbuds), strolled to the train station downtown, bought my ticket at the kiosk, and boarded the train for LA. Forty-five minutes later, I scurried through Union Station and caught the Red Line (that’s a subway. Oh, how I love subways. That’s not sarcasm—it’s practically gushing. Really. I. Love. Subways.), hiked up the practically vertical stairs, and emerged into an overcast Los Angeles morning. A few hours later, I reversed the process. And then this morning I did it all over again.

Okay, so I’m still a suburban girl. But I can fake it pretty good. And I am confident that the MP3 player is what makes it possible.

So spill: what props do you need to become someone else?

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