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I thought I’d ever join the headphones crowd but my generous children bought me an iPod for Father’s Day and pre-loaded my favorite tunes into the tiny music device. For decades, I’ve watched commuters, joggers and students listening to headphones, oblivious to the world and wondered if I was missing something.

I’m happy to say the iPod makes me feel pleasantly divorced from reality. Taking a walk, while listening to my personal soundtrack, makes me feel like I’m floating above the sidewalk. There are some critics, though, who say that people are listening to music and talking on cell phones to avoid thinking and facing the reality in front of them.

Well, as the expression goes, duh? The hardest task a human faces is using their brain and some of us don’t want to overdo it. We’d rather be insulated inside our own sonic world or talking to someone who isn’t there on our cell phone.

I’ve been reading that cell phone addiction is seizing certain members of our society.

Actually, I didn’t have to read about it, I see it everyday on the street. And I fully understand the need to not be alone with our thoughts, or be alone period. This explains why so many people are yakking it up on the streets and subway. They don’t want to be bored, or lonely, for a single second.

Some of these commuters suffer from cell phone addiction but I think this disease is more prevalent among young people. I know teenagers who can’t bear to be away from their cell phones because they might miss a social opportunity. It’s the equivalent of sitting by the phone on Friday night hoping for a friend to call, except every moment is Friday night.

Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with abusing the cell phone. For example, what if you’re with someone who doesn’t really interest you and a more exciting person rings you up? Of course, you take the call. Your companion won’t become bored listening to your fascinating side of the conversation. And if they do get restless, it’s probably because they have a short attention span.

Or, as another example, there’s a slow spot in the movie, or sporting event you’re watching: why endure boredom when you could be chatting about the new color you’re considering for the bathroom. I really believe that with cell phones we can be constantly entertained without having to resort to self-reflection, or face-to-face dialogue.

Cell phone addiction isn’t for me but I’m already hooked on the iPod. I can wear the headphones at a party and still keep up with the conversation. I no longer have to listen to the rumbles and squeaks as I ride an el train. The headphones also block out the construction sounds and traffic noise as I walk through Forest Park.

My children, for their part, are grateful that I stopped blasting music in the living room. If my taste had been different, they might not have complained but they can only take so much classical and classic rock. And it was during one of my private iPod concerts that I discovered”hey I can play solitaire on this thing!

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball...