Skip to content

Ergo Sum

Personal tools
You are here: Home » Members » cmcurtin's Home » Ringtone


Document Actions
What do ring tones tell everyone about the phone's owner?

Music is powerful stuff. We've all felt special connections to particular pieces of music. Sometimes it's nothing more than sound that can touch us deeply, perhaps in a piece like Rachmaninoff's “Vocalise.” Other times, we're moved by the power of sound and words together, as happens with many people listening to the Fourth Movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (the famous “Ode to Joy”). In still other cases, sound can provide a mood, a general feeling, while lyrics can take the listener on a tour of sorts, filling in some of the details.

Despite its ability to be deeply personal, we seem to want to take it everywhere and listen to it all the time. Going out anywhere for anything almost inevitably means hearing some music, often stuff not worth hearing. No matter, though: it's never being played in such a way that it can be given a proper hearing; it's just a bit of background noise.

The music that we listen to—and I'm excluding musicians who listen to all kinds of things because that's simply what they do; I mean here the amateurs, the people who listen to what they like—can tell a lot about us. (Find me a fan of The Cure and I'll show you someone who feels deeply and is prone to introspection.) In some sense, it's a little like the clothes that we wear. When given a chance to adorn ourselves, we often optimize not just for our own comfort, but in how to pesent our own tastes to others who see us. Either way, someone who pays attention gets a view into who we are.

* * *

It was, as the Brits say, quarter of nine on the spring morning; I sat near the back of the bus. Riding in to work far later than usual, I found myself paying little attention to the newspaper in my hands and more attention to my fellow-travelers. I was not focusing on anything in particular: I thought about the lecture I would deliver later that day, random memories around the beloved grandfather I lost the day before, the idiots I would stop dealing with, and probably everything else that I had encountered in the past six months.

A woman of about my age boarded the bus. She appears to be of Irish or perhaps German descent, very fair skinned, black hair, and wearing all black. She found a seat and I wondered about her and what was going through her mind as she looked around. Suddenly, the sound of stringed instruments came from her purse, a Bitter Sweet Symphony. I smiled; it seemed the perfect ring tone for her—and for me, too, in that moment.

Later in the same day, I was riding home after my lecture at the University. Again, I heard the sound of a telephone playing a user-selected ringtone. It wasn't the same person, nor was it a different person with the same ringtone. It was someone very different, someone I imagined not prone to deep feelings or much in the way of introspection.

His phone played the theme from Knight Rider.

Even so, I was unprepared for the half-conversation that followed:

If it good to watch, it'll be straight! But I don't watch it.
You know that latest Star Wars in the theaters? With Samuel L. Jackson? I fell asleep! It's too long! What was that? Three, four hours?
Yeah, should have kept awoke! [sic] Waste of money!

From there, the half-conversation went on to the virtues of Pay-Per-View television. Come to think of it, his ringtone was probably perfect, too.

Created by cmcurtin
Last modified 2007-02-28 08:43 AM
The Latest
In Print

This site conforms to the following standards: