Archive | 8:05 am

Shanghai street sounds

21 Aug

My headphones broke last week.

Since I walk to work, I use my headphones pretty much every day.  I listen to music, I listen to podcasts and I use that 20 minutes or so each way to either prep for the day or wind down.  Until I didn’t have my headphones any more I didn’t realize that I was also using them as a barrier between me and the Shanghai streets, an invisible cloud that pillowed me each day.

Without them, I could hear every guttural throat clearing and spitting, each motorbike horn, the woman saying “Hello, Hello” in English in the park, the almost silent electric bikes that threaten to cut me off, the calls of vendors selling breakfast or dinner to taxi drivers, other people’s cell phones, the laughter over dinner tables, the TV sets turned up to the news broadcasts…

The first day that I didn’t have my headphones it felt raw, like nails on a chalkboard – each sound intruding into my former “private” space.  The second day, a little less so, the third day – more normal.  The walk to work seemed both longer and shorter (not helped by the intense heat that is still enveloping us here in Shanghai).  Noticing these smaller things was different than normal, but that intense – in your face – lifestyle of the street was too much.

I bought new headphones before the week was up.  Even after almost 5 years in China, I still need a buffer between me and the Shanghai street sounds – and this time it was a conscious decision.

Do you have any buffers that you will admit to?  Please share.

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