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It’s Time To Enforce Earbud-Only Zones For The Jerks Infecting Public Spaces With Noise


The sound of a cellphone speaker hits the ear like slow-dripping battery acid. It seeps into your auditory canal and spirals down the cochlea, drop by pernicious drop, where it floods the brain and dissolves your train of thought.

As smartphones proliferate, oblivious half-wits are blaring their digital media in public. It’s rude behavior, like spitting on the sidewalk or farting in an elevator. This aural menace must be stopped now, before it’s too late.

The metallic drone can be heard all over the world. It suddenly erupts in a quiet coffee shop or pierces the din of a favorite restaurant. It’s coming down a hiking trail or from the next aisle over. More and more you hear it in the bookstore, or—curse you all—in the library.

This audio pollution is the next global crisis. For those of us with acute hearing and little patience, the artificial vibration of that little speaker strikes the ear drum like a hammer and rattles every bone in our bodies. What the strobe light is to an epileptic, the smartphone is to a peace-loving curmudgeon.

Color and creed are irrelevant—if you play your tinny smartphone in public, the rest of us hate your guts. We hate your clanging pop songs and your stupid sports clips. We can’t stand your kid’s cartoons or the squealing voice on the other end of your FaceTime session. We pray that the genderfluid robot barking directions from your dashboard will short circuit.

There’s hope for reconciliation, though. This could all end with love and understanding—if you’d just frame your mug with a pair of earbuds.

The Possibility of Peace

These days, we acknowledge that texting while driving is deadly, enough so that it’s illegal in 48 states. Like second-hand smoke and mercury thermometers, obnoxious cellphones are a public health issue. Before long, someone’s gonna get killed—either because one of us snaps on a smartphone cyborg, or because there are just too many of them, and those of us in the wetware remainder have to join hands and jump off a bridge.

If we don’t want to involve the government, the obvious solution is to create voluntary earbud-only zones. The first step is to raise awareness. Begin by creating a 10-foot radius of rabid intolerance around yourself. If you hear something, say something.

I do it all the time, risking life and limb for the greater good. But one Luddite vigilante isn’t enough. To regain the organic serenity of espresso grinders and wailing babies, we need an army of scolds to start nagging now: “Please buy some earbuds.”

Most people don’t want to be jerks. They don’t mean to blow cigar smoke in your face or drag wooden chair legs across the library’s tile floor. They just don’t know any better. So when a fellow patron annoys you with yapping dog videos, just tell him politely: “Buy some friggin’ earbuds!” And if you’re a parent with a tech-addicted brat, stuff ‘em in that kid’s ears before one of us does.

Save a Life—Smash a Smartphone

The private sector has an important role to play in the resistance. Business owners who adopt an earbud-only policy will see their clientele surge, if not in quantity, then surely in quality. Café owners should create a safe space for the literate and the contemplative.

In any sane establishment, the earbud-noncompliant would get the boot. If you’re a flight attendant, explain to noisy passengers that if they don’t shut that thing off, you’re willing to hijack the plane and crash it into a mountainside for one sweet moment of peace. Then hand them a free pair of earbuds.

Failing a voluntary solution, we may have to resort to coercion. Hopefully, my prototype for a personal EMP gun (patent pending) will be ready for production by next year. The device looks like a Nintendo Zapper and fits neatly into a hip holster.

Imagine you’re enjoying a good book on a public park bench. Suddenly you hear a squawky YouTube video playing nearby. No need to say a word. Just draw your hi-tech peacemaker and fire an electromagnetic pulse that fries every circuit in that dude’s phone. Then enjoy the silence. It’ll take out whining aerial drones, malodorous vape pens, and those ridiculous electric scooters, too.

If worse comes to worst, we’ll have to legislate this thing. CFCs gnawed holes in the ozone layer, and DDT gave bald eagles flimsy eggshells, but no one wanted to give these chemicals up. So today we send armed Environmental Protection Agency agents to keep things under control. Bureaucratic measures are never ideal, but desperate times call for authoritarian measures. It may be time to form a Luddite Enforcement Agency, where my EMP guns will be standard-issue.

This is ultimately a matter of personal liberty: the cyborgs’ freedom to make synthetic sounds versus humankind’s deliverance from aural oppression. It’s often said that the mutually hostile tribes of our planet will never come together unless there’s an alien invasion. Well, the invasion is here, and it’s time to unite. Together, we can drive this scourge through the gates of hell and cork that hole with an earbud.