Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Things I Don't Understand - Number Five

Lately, I often find myself walking past young people in the street, or at the supermarket, mall, etc, who have their cellphone turned up loud, playing music, sometimes with earbuds in but often not. The resulting music – which is generally some kind of rap or the latest shallow pop sensation - is tinny, jangly and decidedly irritating. I know they probably don’t care what damage it’s doing to their hearing (young people don’t generally worry about that sort of thing), but I’m mystified as to why they have it playing at all, in those environments. It’s not like you can get the full effect of the music through the tiny speaker of a cellphone. Plus it’s often at least half-drowned out by the clamour of other street or background noise, supermarket or mall muzak, etc, etc. So what’s the point? Is it a sort of subtle adolescent bragging or showing off, advertising that they’ve got a cellphone? (Though pretty much everyone over twelve does, these days.) Are they so addicted to their favourite music they’ve got to have it playing 24/7, no matter what else is going on? Is a trendy thing? Am I turning into an old fogey? Or is it perhaps an NT thing, of wanting/liking noise all the time? I’m puzzled – not to mention overloaded by the aural onslaught.

It’s not that I dislike music, because I certainly don’t. (Well, some anyway. I don’t like rap, or most of those shallow Latest Sensation singers, which I admit doesn’t help. But that’s not my main point.) I simply prefer to listen to it in peace at home, with no other distractions, and through decent sized speakers, so I can get the full effect, and full enjoyment. It’s a private, relaxation thing, not a ‘let’s play rap all day long while we hang out at the mall’ thing.

I can’t help wondering if it’s somehow similar to another NT phenomenon I’ve noticed over the years, and that is people’s holiday habits. In NZ, it’s long been the traditional summer-holiday thing to load up the car and trot off to some beachside campground, squeezing in their tent or caravan or motor home next to dozens of others doing the same thing. Or they rent a holiday home (a “bach”, in Kiwispeak), with only slightly more room, also in some popular seaside place. It’s always mystified me. These are people who live cheek-by-jowl in the cities and main towns, surrounded by crowds every day – so what do they do for their summer break? Go somewhere they are even more cheek-by-jowl with other people!! You’d think they’d want some solitude, some peace and quiet, but no.

It’s not that I don’t understand that NTs don’t receive the full sensory onslaught we do, that they can somehow filter a lot of it out. I also understand that they are generally far more socially-inclined, or at least able to tolerate the constant company of others more easily. But even so… surely they must occasionally want something a bit more restful? Or at least a temporary absence or lessening of noise/people? A beach with no-one else around, a walk down the street with no over-the-top racket, a stroll through the majestic hush of our native forests, with only birdsong for company? Perhaps some do, and I just don’t notice them. Or perhaps it’s just the young people who like the noise and clamour, so their parents take them to these places. But then many parents seem to like these kinds of environments too…

I’m confused. And overwhelmed. And wondering if I’ll ever understand NTs.


  1. Interesting observation about the music...I know an aspie who very frequently plays his music (with earbuds in) on his cellphone. It's about being able to listen to his music whenever and where ever he wants which the cellphone allows by virtue of its portability. It's also about being the music on his cellphone being able to be used to tune out the world around him - to provide another world to focus on, this one more ordered (though I'm not a fan of metal and he is).

    I prefer what I call a staycation: staying at home for holidays where everything familiar is on hand, where routines are easier to maintain, where it is far more relaxing.

  2. I'm NT, with an autistic 6 year old. I agree with you totally on this one. I don't get the phone music thing at all. And I like to split vacation time between quiet and exciting. If you don't have sensory issues, the crowded places can be fun. But I find them fun in small doses. I need to recharge with quiet after that kind of a day myself.

    And speaking as an NT who is on the geeky side, I've never quite fit in to what might be considered the "mainstream" NT world. I've generally been an outsider, so while I "get" them because I'm one of them... sometimes I don't get "us" either. You're not alone ;)

    1. I've noticed that just as there is an autism spectrum, there tends to be somewhat of a spectrum for NT's as well. Some NT's are very much the typical NT, highly emotional, make decisions according to emotion in instead of logic, seamlessly fit in, and demand that everyone else do as well, then there's the NT's that are more logical and independent, and more flexible with autistic and people who don't fit the norm.

      Typically the NT's in the second group tend to be the more intellectual introverts, as it sounds like in your case. Also, being the parent of an autistic make you more open minded probably, and you may have picked up some autistic style traits from your son/daughter, and don't realize it.