I finally flew on an airplane last weekend, for the first time since the nineties. The airline was called Airtrans, which I don't think I even heard of before a month ago. They gave out pretzels, which I'd been told not to expect, nowadays; and they also gave out ear-buds.
I found a station in the on-board XM Satellite radio playing beautiful opera, and tried to put the ear-buds in my ear. They fell out. I pushed them in deeper. The one in the left ear stayed, but hurt my ear. I took it out and tried again. I tried listening with the earbuds held close to my ear but not so much in that they hurt, but there was too much of a swooshing sound interfering with the music.
I felt like a technological neophyte. I wondered if there was a trick to them that I just hadn't learned.
The lady next to me had brought her own white i-Pod ear buds, so I thought maybe the expensive ones are more comfortable. I looked around the airplane, trying to see other people with airplane-issued black ear-buds. Across the aisle there was a teenager, and in front of him a 50 or 60ish year old gentleman. They both had black ear-buds, and they both seemed content. I checked the orientation of the bud wires with respect to their ears--yes, I seem to have got that right. I couldn't notice anything they were doing that made the buds work for them.
A day later I complained to my sister Frannie about the ear-buds. Frannie has been flying a lot lately, and should know about them. "I think our ears are shaped differently," she said. "I can't get them to fit comfortably either."
All this time I've been envying those silhouttes dancing with abandon in the iPod Shuffle commercials. Now it turns out that I don't want to be among them. Cheap ear phones, like the kind I got on a Virgin Atlantic flight years ago, always worked fine. But now they're probably harder to obtain.