On Saturday afternoon, at the corner of McCormick Place and Oakton Street, DH and I were waiting to turn right at a red light. A sign posted on the side of the street said, “NO TURN ON RED (when pedestrians present).” Seeing as how the weather was a beautiful 85 degrees, and that intersection was home to a bike path thoroughfare…. there were tons of people outside.

So we waited. Patiently at first.

There was a woman on a bike, one foot on one pedal preparing to push off, the other on the ground, holding her in place. She had a helmet on, biking shorts, and panniers on each side of her back tire. This woman looked like she knew bike safety and the rules of the road well.

Except she was in the middle of the lane. Not on the sidewalk. THE LANE.

When our light turned green, we were expecting her to leap onto her wheels and shoot off down the bike path. But instead, she just stayed there. Other folks who were riding their bikes in the other direction took off. Why didn’t she?

I honked my horn a few times. She didn’t even acknowledge me. She just stood there, leaned forward in her bike, and looked at the pedestrian crossing sign.

It was a big, red hand. Someone hadn’t pushed the cross button. But it wasn’t stopping anyone else from crossing…and I was being patient enough to let them all cross.

Here I am, at a stand still. I couldn’t go because she was blocking the lane, I couldn’t get her to move because she couldn’t hear me, none of the other bicyclists who were motioning for her to go could get her to budge either.

What. Gives. ?

So I slowly turned around her, honking my horn to get her out of the way. And that’s when I saw it: ear buds. In her ears.

Middle of the lane. Refusing to cross the street. Helmet on. Biking shoes. EAR BUDS IN HER EARS.

God forbid that an emergency vehicle whip past. Or someone scream bloody murder. Or someone try to save her from being hit by an on-coming car.

How loud would you have to have your ear buds up not to hear a car horn?

Pretty loud, me thinks.

And then it makes me think of all the other times that ear buds have annoyed me to some degree. At home when DH has them in to drown out noise and can’t hear me talking to him. On the train, when I can hear every word and musical note myself (isn’t that why THEY are listening and not ME?). Random passersby walking on the street. Kids on the school bus. Patients in doctor’s offices.

Why are we drowning out the natural noises of the world? Why are we listening to other people’s words and lyrics when we could be making our own? Why bury our thoughts in someone else’s? Is this world such a bad place that we need to occupy our mind by thrusting in plastic, poorly designed ear buds and overstimulating our senses?

I think technology is ruining some small pieces of us… and making us unaware of our surroundings. Being attached 24/7 to music makes us vulnerable to the world, detaching us from our natural sensors and leaving us helplessly tied to a drum beat or cymbal snare.

Save the headphones for the gym. Unplug once in a while, folks.