The Headphone Jammer

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New Yorkers have all seen them. We either hate, love, or are just plain amused by them.

I’m talking about the Headphone Jammer.

You know, the Headphone Jammer. The seemingly normal guy (or girl, but in my experience, it’s usually a guy, which maybe is a part of the problem…) who gets on the subway, in their only little world sporting headphones. But before you know it, you are startled away from your commute-daze by the HJ belting out lyrics at the top of their lungs, complete with intense head bopping and hand movements to punctuate each line.

Case in point:

While riding the train a few nights ago, I barely noticed the tall, dark-skinned teenager that sat down across from me. When I did glance up, the only thing that seemed out of the ordinary was that he was carrying a large, gray Walkman. Yes, I said Walkman, as in, the cassette player that is an entire generation more ancient than the Discman. But, other than a general observation of the outdated technology, I went back to my conversation with my friend.

Next thing I knew, I almost jumped right out of my seat at the sound of the HJ’s first note–a loud, booming deep voice in another language. This deep, off-key singing in a foreign language at the speed of light continued as the HJ appeared to be attending his own, private concert. Even as we all stared right at him, it was if he didn’t realize the rest of the train could hear or even see him, and if he did, he clearly just didn’t care. He sang to the ceiling, to the floor, with his eyes closed, opened, fists clenched, smiling, frowning, grimacing.

While this particular HJ was probably one of the most passionate and unabashed Headphone Jammer I have encountered yet, it definitely wasn’t the first time I had come across this interesting social phenomenon. As his voice echoed behind me when I got off at my stop and the subway doors slid shut, I found myself wondering. I mean, what is this point of the headphones if you are going to sing aloud and bring your music into everybody else’s peace and quiet? Actually, what is the point, period? Are you trying to make sure the world knows about your male bravado? Do you think that you are just an incredible rapper or singer and you want to share your talents with the rest of New York? Or are you just REALLY feeling that music and don’t care who knows it?

So are these Headphone Jammes just New York subway dwellers, or are they in cities across the country?


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