Sensory overload

I saw a vexing thing as I rode along the paved Bolin Creek Greenway in Chapel Hill today. What I saw I have ambivalent feelings about – a man who appeared to be blind led by his service dog, with the tell-tale Apple-white cords dangling from his ears.

Most of the greenway users I observe are joggers and walkers, and lots of people walking dogs. And, most of those folks that are out there solo have some sort of device to their ears, like a cell phone or ipods. Since it’s basically a recreational space with a lot of users, I take it easy on the bike rather than treat the path like a closed race course. I came from behind the man with the service dog and slowed to his pace. As I got closer, the man suddenly spooked and pulled at his dog, then settled down. I waited to pass slowly until I could be sure the way around him was clear. That’s when I confirmed that yes, he was blind, and yes, he had ipod buds in his ears.

On the one hand, I have to say that it’s perfectly acceptable that a visually-impaired person would partake of the same pleasures and activities as anyone on the path – in this case a pleasant stroll with his dog along a car-free path by a stream, whilst listening to favorite music, news, or comment.

On the other hand, the more I think about it, the more I’m opposed to blocking out any of my senses – hearing, sight, metal focus – while I’m out there ambulating and locomoting on streets and paths. I wrote about my feelings about using devices like cell phones and ipods while driving and biking a while back. I admitted that I’d tried biking with headphones for a while and realized that was pretty dangerous. And, I confessed to running or dog-walking while listening to music. As I’m exposed to more miles traveled via bike, foot, or car, (and hear about more studies and news stories) I’m convinced that I need all available senses at my disposal.

The winter days and the proximity of a gym have given me a chance to experiment with one alternative to running outside along paths or streets while listening to music – running while listening to music on the treadmill. Treadmills pose their own risks I discovered. If I think about it too hard, staying balanced on the moving walkway seems fairly improbable, but perhaps only as improbable as staying within the lines on the pavement while driving – don’t think about it too much and you’ll be fine.

I found that the danger on the treadmill in fact lies, yes, with the ipod. There I am, clicking through my podcasts, just settling into the comforting nasal tones of Ira Glass’s sensitive observations when the ipod slips from my hand, hits the treadmill track and is shot backward from the apparatus. I flail my arms in an attempt to snatch it back like a jedi, but forget to coordinate the pace of my legs with the pace of the moving belt below me. I jump, pirouette, spin, end up running backwards a few steps while still on the treadmill before I, too, am spewed off the end.

At least all I tumbled onto was a padded mat, rather than into the path of a car. Alas, the treadmill is so boring and running is so painful that I’m still willing to risk the twisted ankle by mixing the personal running device with the personal listening device.


3 Responses to “Sensory overload”

  1. 1 Free Strength Training Videos January 27, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    No good deed goes unpunished. I’ve done similar stunts myself.

    It was embarrassing for me to open the treadmill manual one day to learn what the that little clip at the end of the string on the magnet used to start the treadmill was supposed to be clipped to your clothes. That way when you go flying, the string pulls the magnet and turns the treadmill off.

  2. 2 2whls3spds January 28, 2010 at 8:16 am

    To me it is less of a sensory overload and more of a way to put oneself and others into danger, in many cases GRAVE danger.

    I was working at a university campus, where it seems every student was plugged into some sort of sensory deprivation device. We had not one but several crash into or through construction barricades into the path of falling debris. Fortunately no one was injured, but it led to an investigation into OUR means and methods, not the fact that people are deliberately choosing to descend into oblivion to their surroundings. Cellphones, Blackberrys, Ipods and books are all wonderful things when used properly and in moderation.

    MUP’s, sidewalks and other public spaces when you are on the move are not the place to be oblivious to your surroundings. There have been several documented cases where personal assaults have occurred because the victim was plugged into an ipod and did not receive the audible cue that someone was coming up on them.

    Unfortunately too many people refuse to take personal responsibility for their actions.


  3. 3 T R Ever March 26, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    I remember until the late 80’s early 90’s
    you were lucky if you got 1 cup holder in most European automobiles. even in my 97 VW GTI it had 1 cup holder which would hold a 12 oz can. or if you removed the ashtray a “standard” USA 16 oz travel coffee cup. the reason.
    If you are driving a car. YOU ARE DRIVING A CAR…. If you want to have a coffee and check your email get up a half hour early and do it at home.
    more people die from cars than firearms.

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