October 18th, 2015 by Nick Jacobs Leave a reply »

It’s all relative My headset, those little white earbuds for my iPhone, is lost. OK, maybe lost is too strong; it’s misplaced. My personal form-fitting earbuds, those high tech pieces of plastic that bring audio pleasures to my grey matter are missing. They could be in a jacket, suit, or sport coat pocket, or they could even be neatly wedged between the pillows on the couch or on the floor underneath the front seat of my car. Let’s put it this way. As soon as I buy another set, I’m sure that I’ll find them.

That’s called the theory of relatively. Once you pay out the cash for two earbuds connected to some 13-cent wire, the originals will show up. You can bet on that just as sure as that you’ll be slipping on ice and falling on your butt in Pennsylvania by December. This is where the relativity part comes in; because once you buy another set, you’ll find the old set, and feel relatively stupid.

Let’s add a couple more layers of stupid to that list by shopping for a new set. It seemed like a good idea to pick up a spare pair just in case, and since there are airport specialty shops that deal in electronics, my first, worst instinct was to look around there. Of course it was no surprise to see those magnificent Bose earphones that cancel out all known sound on earth and take you to places that, before you put them on, existed only in some audiophile’s mind. These gems can cost around $300.

Today’s surprise, however, came from the three other displays of hundreds and hundreds of earbuds that cost that much, too. What could possibly be in those little finger-tip-sized pieces of plastic that cost that much? What could be that amazing, that magnificent, that expensive, and that valuable? Did they have titanium base wires powered by little tiny Tesla electric engines with gold dust blown into acoustically modified speakers? Are they hand crafted from the teeth of ancient mammals, or did someone make them from your own very personalized and altered DNA? Is it possible that the folks who make those hearing aids that are wired directly to your auditory sensors through your skull are now in the music business? Could the engineers who designed the Hubble telescope and the Moon Rover now be playing inside your ear canals as well? It seemed incomprehensible that something so small, so plastic, so vulnerable to being misplaced could cost that much. It felt almost sinful that, while people are homeless and hungry, my fellow business travelers might have the equivalent of Audi or Lexus earbuds shoved in those two little ear openings. How, in a world filled with suffering and pain could such extravagance exist?

That was a redundant question because right in front of my eyes, I saw a set of ear buds that cost more than $1,000, sound isolating earphones with quad high definition micro-drivers and a true subwoofer. That’s when my brain flashed back toaconsultant in 1991 who sat at my conference table with a Mont Blanc fountain pen, Mont Blanc flair tip, Mont Blanc highlighter, and Mont Blanc mechanical pencil, those fancy plastic writing tools that cost collectively over $1,000, stuffed in his pocket. It made me grasp tightly to my Bic.

It’s kind of sad that we, as human beings, desperately try to prove our value to ourselves, our peers, and our families through material things. I’ve always admired those strong folks who are so confident and secure that designer accoutrements mean nothing to them. Unfortunately, that’s a struggle for me on an ongoing basis.

So what did I do? I bought a $10 headset to get me through the week until I returned home, and when I did, my daughter called to tell me that she found the originals on the nightstand.



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