Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Todays' Rant: Earphones

-Sorry if this offends any of you.

/start rant

I regularly ride on the Los Alamitos Creek Trail in Almaden for a short time, under 2 miles, between Camden Avenue and Almaden Lake.  It’s either that or ride on Almaden Expressway, which I am not a fan of.  However:

I am so sick and tired of seeing every other person on multi-use trails with headphones stuffed into not one, but both, ears.  There’s a very good reason this is illegal while driving (or cycling, yes it is) on the road, and I am a strict believer that it should also be illegal for all users on multi-use and wilderness trails as well.

It’s not just that these folks have both ears plugged, taking them away from the scenery and beauty of simply being outside.  There are responsible ways to use them, i.e. having a bud in one ear, so the other can keep track of outside sounds.  I see many people doing this.  Great.  Even having them turned way down but in each ear doesn’t really work, since not only is there music, albeit soft, but both ears are plugged.  Even with the music off, having something in each ear still blocks sound, creating a dangerous situation.

On a track or at the gym, fine, there is little to no danger of being passed by folks moving at much higher speeds, and for the most part everyone is going the same direction and there aren’t line-of-sight problems or issues.

My pet peeves about these damned things lie in the irresponsible ways many people use them. 

Parents/Pet owners:

People with headphones in both ears with children or pets.  Seriously.  I see this quite regularly.  And when I see it, I am dumbfounded every time.  It’s unbelievable how irresponsible and dangerous that is.  If you're out walking your pet, or out for a walk with small children, you are in charge of their safety.  How can you possibly do that without being able to hear past your own earlobe? 

Kids, and obviously, animals, don’t understand the rules or dangers of using a multi-use trail, so it's the job of the adult with them to pay extra attention to what's going on, where other users are passing in either direction, and what their kids are doing.

For this very reason, I once had to bunny-hop a poodle, because the owner didn’t hear me call out, and the dog darted out in front of me just as I passed.  

Sudden Mergers:

If you're going to make a lane change on the road in your car, you would look first, yeah?  At least to make sure there isn't a car right there?  So many folks out on these trails randomly pull into the left lane with no warning, without looking, no signal, no glance back, or forward for that matter, they just suddenly go for it.  For whatever reason, to pass someone slower, to look at a flower or stream out to the left, whatever.  My favorites are the people with headphones stuffed in that merge into the passing lane after I have called out "On your left", and then get mad at me at the ensuing near collision.  

Or simply people that can't walk a straight line.  Wandering all around the trail, left to right, back to left, over to center, suddenly stopping, then going again in who-knows-what direction.  Of course, with their ears full.  Um, wow.


Wearing earphones and walking down the middle of the trail.  Really?  Are you assuming you're the only person out here?  That no one could possibly be going faster and thusly might want to pass?  There are reasons there are signs posted at every trail entrance that talk about STAYING TO THE RIGHT!  I’ve been stuck behind these people as well, with bushes overgrown on both sides and some jerk walking down the middle of the path with music blasting in both ears.  I yell, more than once, “On your left!” and “TRAIL!” but it does nothing.  Finally I pass very slowly on their left, squeezing between them and nature, and after scaring the piss out of them, they give me an angry glare.  A few times they even say something.  Like it was my fault they were blocking the entire trail.

The Oblivious:

Having ear buds/phones turned up so damn loud the listener can’t hear anything outside of them.  I yell “On your left!” as loud as I can, and sometimes people don’t hear me, even after a second or third calling, and are startled when I pass.  Several times the person has been so startled after not hearing me call out that they stumble or jump, endangering themselves as well as me.  If I can actually hear your music through your ear buds as I pass you, they are WAY too high. 

To all these people I now have a ritual. Whenever I call out and then pass someone with headphones in who is then startled or says something to that effect as I pass, as soon as I am in front of them, I sit up, take both hands off the bars, and imitate me taking something out of both ears.  Overdramatic, overacted, and exaggerated, of course. Maybe eventually they’ll get the message.  Probably not.

Today's Examples:

Hell, just today in the 1.5ish miles I'm actually on the trail, I saw 3 people, all with buds in both ears, walking down the center of the path.  Right along the dotted yellow line.  2 of them heard me, although one of them I startled.  The third person did not, even after I called out a louder, closer second time.  He jumped as I passed. 

Then there was the two cyclists, riding together, each with buds in both ears.  Really?  Riding with someone else and you still have to have your ears full?  Whatever.  Had to call out to them 3 times and one of them still didn't hear, as they rode side by side taking the whole trail. I had to sneak up next to them, and then they finally let me pass.

Then there was the group of moms pushing strollers coming straight at me from the other direction.  OK, they didn’t have buds or earphones in at all, but they were taking up the entire trail, side to side, three wide, all the while making eye contact with me as I rolled towards them, never budging an inch to give me room.  To the dirt I went. 

And how about the runner running the wrong direction?  The signs say all users need to stay right for a reason.  Not like it mattered, she had buds in both ears, and even going the opposite direction and running straight toward me in the same lane, I don’t think she saw me until the last second when she looked up from the ground for some random reason.  And no, she still didn't bother to move. 

Sometimes, people amaze me.  I’m surprised I haven’t hit someone yet.

(Yet, cause I missed that poodle)

/end rant