Shut Up and Listen

Almost everyone’s got their favorite song, favorite type of music, and favorite band. I find it hard to believe even when talking to the Cosmo-reading girls with their Gucci shoes that they aren’t really into music of any kind. Surely they like some P-Diddy, or Britney Spears…or something. Personally, I don’t think anyone can go through life without music.

I will be the first to tell you the clichéd saying, “I love all kinds of music.” Typically said by people whom either: A. Have no clue what the hell they like, or B. are too embarrassed to tell you for fear of brutal judgment that, yes, that was indeed them you saw in line at Borders buying the new “New Kids on the Block” album.

Yes, they actually came out with another album, and yes I admit to listening to their new single on the top ten hits radio station while driving down the road…“just to check it out,” of course.

However, I did not blast it with my windows down like I usually do when I am driving. I didn’t want to give the wrong impression, the wrong vibe of “who I was.”

That is another one of the many things I do to try and make my time sitting in Atlanta traffic seem less excruciating. As I have said, I do enjoy looking at people and reading their bumper stickers, but there is something to be said for cruising through Atlanta with your windows down.

It’s the best feeling right when the fall season is beginning, when you can smell the air getting cooler and the breeze feels wonderful on your face. Watching the people walk down the sidewalk with their sweaters and hot lattes in hand is extremely comforting. To me, anyway.

What is always interesting to me, and what I find wondering about myself personally, is the fact we think everyone else wants to listen to whatever we are listening to in our cars at that time. Maybe some people think it gives off a certain vibe…a glimpse if you will, of who you are as a person by what particular band you are blasting in your car. Or maybe we just like the wind on our faces and the sound of our favorite tunes blasting in our ears…deafening us to the city noises outside; trying to surround ourselves with something comfortable and safe, just to get away from the world around us.

Or maybe some people just want to be assholes.

Now I love my head-pounding bass as much as the next person, but I gotta be honest; I hate it when the person’s bass is so loud, it not only rattles my car, but you can hear their stupid license plate tag rattling and their trunk vibrating because of the sheer force of it all.

I am not impressed with your bass system, especially if you are too cheap to buy the sound muffler protection for your trunk to where it won’t do that.

Here I was, listening to my little Moldy Peaches album. You know, the folky-hippie-what-have-you music that is so sickeningly sweet and cute you get a cavity just listening to it. Sure, I had it cranked up, windows down…it was a nice day, and I was about to go spend it in front of a 500-degree oven for 13 hours at work.

I hear it coming literally 45 seconds before he pulls up next to my little bright yellow Ford Focus, which looks like an ant compared to his gigantic black Escalade with shiny chrome rims and, from what I could see, cream leather interior. This SUV was completely decked out, and it even came with the ever-so-popular “BOOM, BOOM, BOOM…rattle, rattle, rattle”…etc. option.

The closer he gets, the more drowned out my music becomes, and poor Kimya Dawson’s voice just cannot overpower his Lil’ Wayne…or whatever. He pulls up next to me, and I turn and kind of give him a little look because now I cannot hear my music at all.

I’m cranky, I’m about to go to work for 13 hours on a gorgeous day, and all I want to do is listen to my sappy folk-love songs this morning. I reach over and turn up my volume and face directly in front of me…trying not to smirk and pretending to be extremely interested in the people walking across the crosswalk in front of me.

He probably thinks I am some hippie twit with my little bandana on, smoking a Camel Light, sipping my coffee, and going to some protests or something.

If only I could be so lucky to be that “hip”.

Seconds later he cranks his music up louder and the bass literally makes my ears ring and I cannot hear my music again.

My radio is turned completely up.

I look at him, giving him my best “What the heck??” face and he proceeds to throw his arms up in the air and mouth to me, “What now, bitch?”


Defeated, I sheepishly roll my windows up and drive away, vowing to not be that jerk ever again.

I’m glad I did, because on the way home from work that night, I would have missed quite the experience.

After an especially mind-numbing, soul-sucking, dealing-with-scumbags kind of day at work, I had my windows down but had my radio at a modest volume level. I hear the sound of synthesizers coming up next to me.

It is Michael freaking Jackson…and the song is “Beat it”.

The car pulls up next to me, and I swear to god, this woman had to be about 70 years old…and maniacally dancing to Michael Jackson.

I was instantly thankful this particular light takes forever to change, because this was the best performance I had seen in a long time. This woman had all the moves down and was flailing in her seat. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect reenactment of the music video, and it was pretty impressive she could do all of this in the driver’s seat of her Crown Victoria. There were even neon lights flashing on her face and into her car. Only to my disappointment, I realize it was from the CVS sign behind her.

She catches me smiling at her and gets this enormous grin on her face and yells, “HECK YEAH!!! WHOOO!!!” She continues dancing, and motions for me to do the same.

“Can’t you just feel it?” she screamed as she gyrated. “Dance with me sweetheart!”

Why the hell not?

Yes, I began dancing and singing with her as she turned up the song for all of Atlanta to hear, feeling ever so slightly awkward because compared to this 70-year-old woman, I look like such a dork…grooving to Michael Jackson.

But you know, I didn’t care. I didn’t even care about the people behind us  blowing their horn because I didn’t notice the light had changed in my moment of blissful release.

At the next light, “Thriller” came on, and she was a couple of cars ahead of me. I could see she was trying to get the people in the next car to dance along with her as she did me, but they couldn’t hear the music because their bass was too loud. It drowned out the beauty that could have been found only in this crazed, dancing 70-year-old woman and her Michael Jackson tunes.

Now, among the other things I do while sitting in traffic, I turn my radio down low at red lights not only to hear what music others are listening to, but in sheer hope that I will find someone like that woman again.

If you just shut up and hear the “music” every once in a while…turn down your radio and not have to broadcast your personal “vibe” across town, not only can you hear the symphony of the city sounds around you, but you may be pleasantly surprised in what you may find. Whether it is the homeless guy playing the saxophone on the sidewalk, someone reciting a poem, a crack deal (hey, some people find beauty in that) or just the sound of cars driving by, there is always something to hear in the city. This is why I know I will want to live in an urban setting the rest of my life.

Just by letting go and opening your mind and ears to everything around you and leaving your little bubble composed of the things that make you “who you are”, you may actually experience something new, and maybe even something life-changing.

If you’re really lucky, you may hear a 70-year-old woman blasting her favorite Michael Jackson songs for all to hear, making you dance like an asshole, but causing you to feel a lightness you haven’t felt in months.

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