Shall I Complain, They’re Already Wearing Headphones

Someday from five years ago, I was working on an assignment in a computer lab at UC San Diego. There was always a sign on the door reminding us not to talk or eat at any time in the lab. The lab was normally really quiet and clean.

Until it wasn’t quiet anymore. I heard music being played in the room. I turned my head around to see what happened.

Nothing in particular, I thought. Students scattered in the lab were either working on homework with serious looks on their faces or chilling with their headphones on. Where could that sound come from?

I listened in more closely to locate the source of the sound. I scoped down the target range to one guy, who was sitting a few seats to my left near the aisle. He obviously had his big headset on though.


The music started to get louder. Other students in the lab, like me, started to look around and exchange glances with others to show our acknowledgment of the existence of that despicable member of the herd.

At some point, someone just has to tell that guy to turn the music down, I thought. Based on my spotless record on being nosy (after learning about the diffusion of responsibility phenomenon, the one thing that defines who I am), I stood up and was ready to make a move.

I gently walked towards the guy’s desktop and realized that he himself wasn’t in the know of what happened either.

The headphone wasn’t fully plugged into the processor.

I tapped on his shoulder and broke the news to him.

He had an epiphany, apologized for what he missed, and pushed the plug into the processor. The lab was quiet again.

No one was hostile toward him anymore.

A while after this little incident, I ran into many cases, where someone’s headphone is already fully plugged in, well-connected, and working as it’s supposed to be, but I still hear so many noises in the air. It is just too loud.


Let me ask you this: If this person sitting next to you is listening to music that’s super loud to the extent that you can clearly hear the genre and the lyrics — would you blame this person? Or their headphones? Would you ever ask this person to volume it down? Or shall we just block out the noises with our own headphones if possible?

Photo by  Daiga Ellaby  on  Unsplash

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash


I am not sure what the morale of my article is, which is why I have been reluctant to publish it in the past few weeks. I look forward to your feedback.

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