YOU CAN'T GO OUT these days without seeing them everywhere. Disgusting slaps in the face to all that is good and loud. Their usage has spread faster than drain cleaner drugs at a Midwest house party and more nefariously than a government-synthesized hypervirus. They are earplugs. Worn at shows. By people.
As a society we are obsessed with plugs. We fill our lives with them. Hair plugs, butt plugs, fire plugs, dirt plugs, electrical plugs, spark plugs, plugs of tobacco, celebrity plugs, plug hats, pulling the plug, plugging away, plugging homies with gats, plugged drains. But no plug is worshipped by our society as is that worst of them all: the earplug.
They come in many forms. Professional earmuffs worn by target shooters and guys at the airport. Custom-made hard plugs— cyborgs of metal, rubber, and flesh. Interactive and robust earplug experiences downloaded online through cutting-edge streaming Web technology. The soft and squishy foam cylinders, rolled and stuffed into place. Toilet paper ripped from puke-splattered stalls of the club bathroom. And for those who prefer their music depreciation au naturel, good old index fingers, warm and true.
And they all make you the biggest loser on the planet.
You, with the earplugs! Who the hell do you think you are? "Ooooh, look at me! My hearing is sooo precious, I can't be exposed to anything loud. I can't take the full volume of a band. I need my ears for all sorts of important things. Talking on my cell phone at Blockbuster, 'Have you seen Home Fries? No, that's Never Been Kissed!' Picking up intimate details about Tiffany glass and clown paintings on Antique Roadshow and then wondering aloud to myself, 'Could it be that my ceramic baby based on the work of Anne Geddes is actually worth $10,000?' Hearing my name over the (very) loudspeaker when my table's ready at the Outback Steakhouse. I need to hear cars honking at me because I'm a lousy driver and also a pathetic pedestrian. My ears are like little sacred chapels. I'm thinking of having them insured by Lloyd's of London. Let's get the band to turn their amps down too. Even with earplugs it's too loud! Let's go outside where it's quiet. Let's move somewhere quiet. I'm thinking Alaska. Or Tacoma. Oh, can you also warm my formula, give me a teething ring, and help me change my diaper?"
What's next? Welding masks for spotlight protection? Waterproof ponchos in case someone spills a beer on you? Nose plugs because the gorilla in front of you doesn't know how to shower or wipe his ass? Shin guards? Emergency snakebite kits? Clad in full suits of armor, your hermetically sealed bubbles are rolled by technicians to points of the club determined by a team of UW researchers to be absolutely insult-free with a .03 percent error for tolerance. Shows populated by stacked rows of sensory deprivation tanks and showers spraying antibacterial gel at seven-minute intervals. Music fans, is this what you want?
Why are you there in the first place? From what I hear, many people's lives have a social aspect, where they actually have friends they talk and share with. I'm not sure I believe that, but I suppose for plenty of you, paying $8 to yakity yak with your ugly friends in public, thinking that exposure will somehow get you into someone else's bed, makes perfect sense. But if you're wearing earplugs when you do this, perhaps your place is sucking down pints at a quiet pub table or, conversely, buried in a shallow grave behind the Crocodile with your throat slit from ear to ear.
If you're a real "music fan," there's no way you have earplugs in. I don't care how many nights a week you're out seeing shows. If you like your music, and I mean really like your music, you have absolutely no business putting anything in between you and those lovely sound waves coming from the stage, the way Gawd intended it. Period. Feel it. Love it. Suffer. End of discussion.
I MUST ADMIT that the subject of bands wearing earplugs on stage is a touchy one. After all, they have their swollen heads in those speaker cones for hours every night, and most of them don't have much else going for them. I don't fault them for wanting to protect those head holes. They do have to use their delicately tuned hearing to stand in the studio and command that the part they recorded be brought up in the mix. Still, I don't think David Yow and Sheena Easton ever wear earplugs, and those kids really rock.
Now, if you're one of those thick-necked security apes in yellow whose job it is to brutally decapitate 14-year-old kids who climb up on the stage, fine. Keep the earplugs in. To judge from your facial expressions you hate the bands anyway. Likewise, if you're a bartender or waitress, go ahead and slap some foam in. You're going to mutilate my drink order whether you can hear me or not. Roadies, guitar techs, T-shirt sellers, bus drivers, personal assistants, tour managers, make-up artists, fashion consultants, band astrologers, moms and dads videotaping the show, you've all got a job to do, so by all means, feel free to protect yourself from the horrible threnody you've involved yourself in.
But if you are anyone else in that room, might I suggest an alternate location for your earplugs? How about your ass.