There are headphones and earbuds strewn on my desk, in my desk, behind my bed, in their cases, in plastic bags, in plastic bins, in the trash can, in the closets, on the bookshelves, in the cupboards, in the drawers, on the floor, and in my ears. Roughly half of them are functioning; a quarter desperately need disposal, and the remaining I'm too sentimental to trash. As far as I know, they span creation dates from around the late nineties to winter of this year. They range in worth from nothing to more than I would ever spend, which is why most of my friends are technology collectors who can apparently spare the extra set or two that doesn't fit into the iPhone. [Don't look at me like that... -Tech]
I like music immensely. I have a soundtrack running in my head, one that doesn't stop even when I sleep. Given that I can't live without some sense of melodic sound in my head, it's pretty important that I have something to listen to music with. I can recall enough sadly quiet days when I've left my headphones in my desk but managed to sling my Sansa into my bag all the same.
But all the same, even though I've been listening to music daily since the fifth grade (yes, I was using one of those godforsaken CD players with whirring noises and whiny buttons, along with a pair of clunky over-the-ears that were guaranteed not to damage my hearing, and thus made my music unintelligible. I survived by listening to classical until I learned about speakers), I wasn't picky about sound quality or leakage until I started riding the bus in my first year at university. I quickly learned that I hated iPod headphones. They looked uncomfortable, they screamed MAC! RICH! APPLE!, and they made percussion instruments sound like a symphony made of angsty toddlers with pots and pans. However, as I realized one day as the brunt of a very malicious stare from a heavily lipsticked fellow bus-rider, my over-the-ears 90s-style headphones were leaking pretty badly too. I'll admit that when I took them off and had a good secondhand listen, I wasn't too fond of Clay Aiken anymore (that might have been sarcasm).
I switched to earbuds. I figured that if my spongy 90s-style cuffiete weren't going to seal in sound,I might as well use more compact ones. I've never been good with cords with wires in them, and the idea of not literally tearing up the wires was a pretty nice one. Those earbuds gave me earaches; they were hard black plastic with no cushioning and five little drilled holes for sound.
Then my Faustian contract with the earbud devil ended, or at least something bad happened and they split into several pieces, potentially taking parts of my soul with them. I moved on to a pair of sony somethings that had little hooks to go over my ears. I left them in a lounge at university and, naturally, did not find them the next day. I made do with my old clunky headphones. College students do have budgets... at least, the ones who aren't majoring in engineering, such as the lenient TechniMaster, who allows repressed linguistics students to post random novice musings.
It was another half a year before I bought myself a pair of knockoff "nice" earbuds from Ross for a grand total of 3.99 + WA state tax. They squished in my fingers and actually let me turn the volume down to the third notch on that outdated Sansa. Then they spontaneously combusted one day, and I found half of a small metal something in my left ear a few hours later. Where the rest went...
Then the TechniMaster lent me a pair of iPod earbuds, and I succumbed to looking like an Apple fanatic, only to disappoint the Macfans when I pulled out a scratched little Sansa c250. Or maybe I had the e200 by then. In any case, I maintained my status as an anti-iTunes Seattlite only internally. I still didn't have enough money to buy an iPod... and I still don't. Grad school calls.
Those were replaced by another round of the same, presumably just to make me the saddest technology poser. Those, in turn, were sporadically deposed by a funny little keychain-earbud-explosion-of-pink-things ensemble that were actually a bit fluffy and kept my ears from being scratched--I suffer from small ears, which makes most earbuds of low quality relatively painful... and completely unstable. My career as a runner ended when they refused to quietly live in my hearing organs.
Finally, through some random turn of luck, I walked up to my doorstep with a pair of Shures in ear. They have an odd tendency to pick out the conversations I want to hear least and cancel all other noises, but given that I can finally put the volume on the lowest setting and still be groaning a little about the reverberation in my head is quite fair. Considering that my playlist includes some Japanese and Nordic metal, that ringing is well justified. The Shures are so far indestructible, boasting insanely thick wires that refuse to abandon their phone-cord ringlet shape and guarantee to last for anyone other than technology impossibles (read: me). [And me, apparently...she got the replacement set Shure sent me for the E2c's I broke. -Tech]
However, I consider myself a social climber on the ladder of headphones, and if I've accepted some welfare along that way, it's worth the maintenance of my 24/7 soundtrack (the costs have been minimal). Even if I've been banned from Ross for bringing back crumpled receipts and shattered earbuds.