As sympathetic as I am to Louis C.K.’s viral rant “Everything’s Amazing, Nobody’s Happy,” there are some things about this modern life that are undeniably annoying, and for reasons bound inextricably to the same technology that makes 21st century life wonderful. Consider the iPod. It makes large music libraries portable, and the “shuffle” feature allows the user to hear their favorite music in entirely new ways, with songs from different genres and eras playing consecutively and raising associations that listeners may never have considered before.
Yet I’m sure everyone who uses an iPod regularly has had this experience: You switch it on, push play and… you realize you forgot to shuffle. And you know this because the same song comes up that comes up every time you forget to shuffle. On some devices, it’s a song by the first alphabetical band in your library, and on some it’s the song that comes first alphabetically. On my old iPod, I knew I’d screwed up when I heard the opening notes of !!!’s “Me And Giuliani Down By The School Yard.” On my new one, it’s the opening notes of “Abacab,” by Genesis, that makes me heave a heavy sigh.
I understand that this is a minor inconvenience: the technological equivalent of a stubbed toe. It’s the kind of thing that makes you mutter “damn it” to yourself for a moment before you quickly shrug it off and fix the problem. In the old days, it would’ve been a dusty needle that needed to be picked clean; today, for me, it’s “Abacab.” But I like “Abacab,” and hate to think that I’ll associate it for the rest of my life with shuffle-fail. When I asked my friends via Twitter yesterday what their alphabetical default song was, a lot of them mentioned “A-Punk,” by Vampire Weekend. Maybe I should put that record back on my iPod. I like “A-Punk” too, but I think I could live it with becoming the iPod equivalent of the sad trombone sound. (“Waa-waa-waaaaaaah.”)
What about you? What’s your shuffle-fail song? And what “modern inconveniences” have you spotted lately that wouldn’t have been a problem a decade ago?