The Nice Movement

Dave Haste
By Dave Haste Last edited 121 months ago
The Nice Movement
Earphones in the bin

This weekend column is brought to you by the founders of Niceties Tokens, Liz and Pete of Team Nice.

42. Listening

Got on my train last night, listening to my iPod and reading a book.

From out of nowhere a man comes up to me and starts saying something to me. I take an earphone out and to my utter horror he says:

“Can you turn that music down?”

Oooh, he had a bit of a swagger to his walk and used gesticulation to show ‘volume down’ – like I was a complete idiot.

I mumbled, "Yes… err sorry" and turned the volume down. I swear I saw a look of smug triumph as he returned to his seat.

During the train journey I felt more and more humiliated – I wanted to leap up and say to him, “Hey, no need to look so smug, buster – I didn’t realise my music was so loud and I am a very, very, very considerate commuter – in fact I have an odd hobby called that takes up most of my spare time – which evolves around being a considerate commuter...” (I obviously am sane enough not have done that… though I am clearly finding writing about it cathartic.)

BUT – in the morning I realised after all that I was being horrible about this bloke for no reason other than what he did made me feel stupid. Well done to him. What he did made him a bit of hero for the rest of the people on the train.

I have learnt my lesson, I will buy better earphones and test the volume of them, and I should have a hearing test too…

But also:

1. As I had never thought that I was one of those people who played their music too loud, I wonder if most people who do play their music too loudly are oblivious to this too. Could you be at it without realising?

2. Is there a better way of getting someone to turn their music down that is less confrontational? Because if there was there would be more occurrences of it. And we wouldn’t have to suffer it so much…

As a short 30-year-old woman, I wouldn't be thought of as an intimidating looking stranger and so the man on the train was able to ask me – very politely – to turn my music down. But would the same guy have approached someone else? What about all the people out there who are taller, bigger, male-er, than I am, who are simply sitting 'quietly' listening to their music, innocent of malice… but just don't get approached.

How many train carriages suffer needlessly?

By Liz Akers

Last Updated 13 April 2008


> I will buy better earphones and test the volume of them, and I should have a hearing test too…

I don't think it is your ears...the stock iPod earphones are absolutely dreadful in terms of sound loss. I think more music gets shared with the carriage than the person listening!

I have a cheap pair of Shure canal phone, they have a dual benefit, I don't annoy everybody and I can't hear all the people with ill-fitting white 'I’ve got an iPod and not too worried about the sound quality' earphones ;)

I had the idea of creating cards that you hand out to people that pointed out in a humorous way the fact that their crap iPod headphones were annoying the rest of the carriage, negating the whole feeling stupid/smug bloke scenario - I even own for this reason! - maybe we could resurrect the idea...

Working Class Hero

Hmm, not sure I agree that it is acceptable for people to be asked to turn down the volume when they are already making an effort by using headphones already. Surely this is preferrable than those people who play their music out-loud on their crappy phones?

Personally, I listen to music so I don't have to listen to the inane and overly-loud conversations of my fellow-travellers. Has anyone ever asked a group of American tourists to keep their wonderful observations to a lower decibel? Or asked Camdenites to keep their drunken revelries on mute? Much more annoying surely.

I think the tube has to be a case of Put Up rather than Shut Up.


I agree, Working Class Hero - going on the bus without some form of musical escape is to submit yourself to the in(s)ane ramblings of your fellow passengers - especially school kids (bloody kids, eh?) Although to be fair sometimes I do rush to judgement - a very crazy old man was doing a lot of scary chatting to himself on the 73 on Saturday night but when he asked to listen to one of my earphones for a bit, he turned out to be an unexpected Stereolab fan...

A little bit of tinny sound coming from my earphones is acceptable, OK? People playing their music out loud on their phones should be taken from the bus and hanged from the neck until they are quiet. I'm hoping Boris will agree and introduce such a penalty when he takes office next month.


I agree, Working Class Hero and dePfeffel - in the irritability test of crappy earphones versus kids playing their phones there is no competition.

But playing music through a phone is being deliberately antagonistic, isn't it? and harder to resolve, where as someone unaware that their music is being overheard could be resolved much easier.

And yeah, i wish a tinny sound coming from my earphones was acceptable - but having been told off about it I don't want to feel that mugged up again.

Which is why I reckon Kmara has got something there with the idea of giving out cards.