The AirPod Connect Sound Is Beautiful
An utterly cheesy, totally true essay about wireless earphones
The first time I saw a pair of AirPods in a pair of ears, I thought they were a joke. They were so absurd looking as to be hilarious, and my best guess was that my friend, a tech journalist who’d gotten his hands on a loaner set well before launch, had for some reason snipped his buds from their tangled wires and put them in his ears to amuse me. We sat across from each other in the TIME newsroom, where we worked back then; he’s a bit of a joker, and I’m an easy laugh.
After he explained that he was testing what would become, for me later, a life-changing piece of technology, I snapped a pic and posted it to my IG with the caption: “This is the only person in the world who will ever make AirPods look cool.” (He is handsome, and also French.)
I decided then and there that I would never own this peculiar-looking Apple product, and I stuck to it for years.
I spend a lot of my time in Google hangouts. This confers a number of benefits, connecting me with my boss and other members of the Medium team, which is largely based in San Francisco. I live in New York and have colleagues and direct reports in many U.S. cities. This technology brings us closer, but it also introduces friction. Shitty AV is a daily frustration, and the sound of people’s voices coming out of a laptop speaker is the actual soundtrack in hell. Wired earphones are a drag. Those gigantic wireless ones take up too much room in the handbag and they mess up your hair. You know where this is going.
I am told I am a Xennial (’78) but I identify firmly as a Gen Xer, mainly because I like talking on the phone for hours at a time. I stopped talking on the phone several years ago. We all did, because of smartphones and texting and the other ways we waste our time. (Also, we dislike the humid, slippery sensation that comes from holding up a phone to our cheek for more than a few minutes at a go.)
So I text, but I prefer talking. I have text-tone misunderstandings, we all do. I connect less with friends who suck at text, we all do. I try to strengthen my emoji game. You know where this is going.
The first iPod came out a month after I moved to New York. I was a big music lover, working at a music magazine, and my boyfriend at the time got me the white one. I remember walking around New York alone, listening to music, feeling powerful and free, and like anything could happen. It was like I was sharing stolen moments with some other part of myself that emerged only in these conditions. The world felt gigantic.
Over time, I would lose earbuds with more frequency than a deli umbrella, or the cord would become too tangled to reach my back pocket and so fuck it. Later, I’d hear there was a new Dreamville record and I would wonder how it was. I didn’t know who Post Malone was (maybe for the best). It took me forever to listen to Lemonade. You know where this is going.
It feels sycophantic, silly, very one percent (which I’m not — not the one percent part), but you knew where this was going all along: When I finally got my own pair of stupid-looking AirPods, they were a birthday present. I rolled my eyes when I opened the box. But when I put them in my ears, it was as though the clouds parted and the rays shone down, and boom. Life changed.
I started to connect more with my friend who lives two miles away and is a chatty cathy but a working mother of three and therefore an uneven texter. And other friends, too. People who are special to me, and whom I’d lost. I started connecting more with my colleagues, and I’m more animated and focused in meetings. I caught up with my old boss from those early magazine days and we’re cooking up new ways to work together again. And I listen to music. Lots and lots of music.
Connection is technology’s great gift.
Those who meditate have probably heard the term “dropping in.” It’s a state that can come with a physical sensation that is hard to describe. It’s a gentle dip on a familiar road in a fast-moving car. It’s when that other vast part of yourself becomes available, and you feel bigger and smaller at the same time. You feel more you.
The sound that AirPods make when they connect to your phone is the aural equivalent of dropping in. It’s when a whole big world reveals itself, and so you go walking through the streets of New York, feeling as powerful and free as you did when you were 23, because you are. The bigness of the world is still there for you. And anything can happen.