Friday, January 4, 2008

ringing in the new year

I've been thinking about this post for a while now. As a bus rider, I have had many of my favorite observations on the daily commute, be it to or fro. A few weeks ago, a cell phone rang on the way in to work, and despite my best efforts, I couldn't help but to play name that tune. It was, after a couple of bars, unmistakably the strains of that classic Hall and Oates' ditty, "Private Eyes". Do not misunderstand me, I actually have H&O Greatest Hits album, "Rock n' Soul" in my iTunes library, so I do not question their musicianship, nor their appropriate place in pop history. It is what happened next that is the basis for this entry.

The woman, scrambled to find the source of the melody, pained look on her face, hoping to end the embarrassment of her song selection in this most public and judgmental of forums. With much ado, she found the phone in her warehouse of a purse and stopped the ringtone.

My question is: if she was going to suffer such shame over the audio selection, why did she pick it in the first place? And she is not alone. I have seen this phenomenon countless times, yes on the bus, but also at work, coffeehouses, and other public spaces. People expressing externally the internal groan of "yes, that's really the song I picked for my ringtone."

Which begs the further question: is your ringtone a reflection of who you are, who you believe yourself to be, or who you'd like the world to perceive you to be? For some, a ringtone is what it is meant to be, a way to indicate you have a phone call. BUT, if you're going to customize your cell's sound functions, then you've obviously made the very conscious, very self-aware decision that your ringtone means something just a bit more. So, why pick something which will elicit anything less than joy and/or pride when it rings? If the woman had smiled at the Hall and Oates song, or given it an extra beat before turning it off, I'd have thought to myself, "that's pretty damn cool." Instead, I joined her in her emotional self-flagellation, and thought quite simply: "lame."

On a larger scale, so many products and services tout the idea of "customization" or "make it your own" and I think, as a citizenry, we are delighted to seize our own uniqueness where we can, thrilled to finally be supported, not ridiculed, when we order things "on the side" (or whatever might be the applicable "my way" form or functionality). However, the system fails us if we don't pick things honestly. Or, perhaps it's not about honesty, it's about comfort. Or perhaps it is neither, but rather, recognizing the platform of our customization, and having the wherewithal to discern said platform's availability to public scrutiny. Any way you slice it, it boils down to being true to yourself in life's decisions. (someone call Bill Shakespeare, there's something in that) Even the little ones.

P.S.: my ringer is set to Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk". I'm not entirely sure what that says about me when folks here it ring, but I'll tell ya, it's a great song from a great album, and I tend to let it ring just a little longer than I should when someone calls. Just in case anyone's listening.
the thoughts and opinions expressed below are entirely my own, and are not necessarily shared by my friends, family, or employer. (though they very well might be...)