I use headphones often. I listen to music. I listen to podcasts. I create music. At home, I use a pretty nice but not too expensive pair of Grado headphones on my desktop computer, where I make most of my music. I use a pair of inexpensive Skullcandy headphones on my laptop(s), as I have broken one too many pairs of more expensive headphones.
But I write tonight about the loss of a dear family friend. This week the disease called breakage deprived me of what I lovingly called the cheap white headphones. This set of headphones has been a part of my personal radio telescope array for some years. I got these at a discount chain store called Big Lots, which stocks headphones in the 7, 10 and 20 dollar range. The cheap white headphones were over-ear headphones with soft padding. They were wired. I rather dislike wireless headphones and consider Bluetooth headphones an intriguing form of mass harmless commercially induced insanity. I view the disappearance of the microphone jack on the inexpensive laptop a sacrilege and the disappearance of the headphone jack on some brands of cellular phone a heresy.
The cheap white headphones served a crucial function in my life. Readers of this journal may realize that I spend a lot of my free time taking short walks. I rarely take long over-country hikes. I usually cap out at an hour or two, and often walk for just fifteen or thirty minutes at a time. I take lots of walks. Often, I walk without headphones, to hear the sounds of nature and folks around me. But often I put on my cheap white headphones and listen to a podcast or to music.
The cheap white headphones cost 10 dollars to buy. I used them perhaps hundreds of time, as they lived permanently in my vehicle. I am not sure exactly when I got them. My first reference in my journal is about 30 months ago, but I think I had them for a goodish while before then. They gave me a surprisingly good sound (for the money) and they were cheap but durable. I could ask for no better.
Though audiophile gear interests me, I have about as little of the real audiophile about me that anyone as interested in music as I am could have. My ethic is more cheap-and-cheerful than pay-500-more-for-an-extra-bit-of-clarity. I generally mistrust this year's model, trade press hype (though I like reading it, a bit like reading chocolate) and ordinary-tech-packaged-as-cool-tech. I liked my cheap white headphones because I put them on and they worked.
They bit the dust on Sunday. I put them on after a morning hike, and found that they had broken. I probably did that somehow, I'm not sure how, or perhaps it was just its time. If we measure a good's utility as cost divided by number of times used, I had gotten very good value for my ten dollars.
I went to my local Big Lots Sunday afternoon. The headphone supply, once booming, was paltry. Too many relied on various bluetooth wireless systems. But I found a new set of over-ear by Sentry (a maker of cheap headphones known to me) called a "Fat Boy". I've used those a couple of times already, and they work pretty well. But they are not the cheap white headphones.
I like the quotation by the 1930s comic Will Rogers, who said 'If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went". I lack such a pithy turn of phrase. I do think, though, that I can imagine some quiet afterlife with lovable cheap white headphones, and perhaps the sound of a deep, melodic hum.