By DAVID CARR
Last Tuesday night, I took my place in the bus queue for the commute
home. Further up the line, I saw a neighbor -- a smart, funny woman I
would normally love to share the dismal ride with.
I ducked instead, racing to the back of the bus because season one of
the ABC mystery-adventure "Lost" was waiting on my iPod. Claire was
clearly about to go into labor and John Locke, the sage of the show,
had been acting funny of late. The portable show meant my commute,
which I have always hated with the force of 10,000 suns, had become a
little "me" time.
Much was made of how silly it was for Apple to believe people would
watch television on a 2.5-inch screen. But consumers have downloaded
three million video programs from iTunes since the new video iPod
became available in October. What gives?
The new iPod is its own little addictive medium. Its limitations -- a
viewing experience that requires headphones and a hand-held screen --
create a level of intimacy that arcs to television in its infancy,
when the glowing object was so marvelous it begat silent reverie.
You now stare at bejeweled color and crisp lines rendered in
miniature. The ability to download programming of my choosing gives me
a new kind of private, restorative time, a virtual third place between
a frantic workplace and a home brimming with activity.
But I feel a little dirty. As a print guy, I have always thought that
magazines and newspapers were the ultimate in portable media -- I even
learned that fancy subway fold so I could read broadsheet newspapers
without bonking my seatmate in the nose to get to the next page. And
if I am living in a little world of my own making, it is not doing a
great deal for my connection to the world at large.
Many times on the train or bus, before the new iPod, I would run
stuff over in my mind -- doing actual thinking as opposed to the data
processing I do throughout the day and night. My commute has gone
from a communal and occasionally ruminative day-part to a time when I
stare at a television remote control that happens to have a picture
embedded in it.