He was wearing AirPods and shouting. Then a woman complained

There I was, just trying to work out at the gym. Suddenly, yet another AirPod controversy. This one beggared belief.

33-apple-airpods-pro1.jpg

They must have been AirPods Pro.

I find some things incomprehensible.

The joy of biking up mountains, for example. Or the charm of tasseled loafers.

Then there's the strange phenomenon of men who shout at the gym. At each other. While they're three feet away from each other and supposedly having a conversation.

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Naturally, I imagine steroids might play a role. At least in a few cases.

The other day, however, I witnessed an escalation beyond belief and, well, even beyond humor.

I was seated on a bike at the gym, pedaling away and reading a history of soccer in Seville, Spain. I know, I know. No one is innocent in this world.

Suddenly, I heard a single male voice shouting at a level beyond the calculations of Richter.

I assumed that, after a brief pause, I'd hear another male voice shouting back. This is, after all, the common ritual at the gym.

In this case, however, there was no second voice. I looked up and this loud man was also riding a bike. He appeared either to be shouting at a distant television or having an excitable conversation with someone via his AirPods.

It's possible I suppose, that he was declaiming Wordsworth because it enhanced his exercise routine.

Regular readers will know that I have an unhealthy fascination with Apple's highly wearable, sometimes unbearable listening gadget and fashion item.

In the real world, the AirPod is causing controversy. So much so that recently a coffee shop barista refused to comply with someone who was wearing just one AirPod while he placed his order.

Here, though, the man on the bike just kept on bellowing.

Next to him was a woman on a treadmill. She tried to attract his attention by, of all futile things, speaking in a normal voice.

"Do you have to shout?" she said.

He was too busy shouting to notice.

She tried again. Again, no reaction.

Finally, she waved her arms in a quite theatrical manner as she said, a little more loudly: "D'ya have to shout?"

In reply, he offered something immortally troubling. He turned toward her, gesticulated, and shouted: "I can't hear you! See? AirPods!"

They were surely the noise-canceling kind, I hear you snort.

At first, he showed no interest in, say, taking one out so that he could hear what the woman was saying. It was only her clearly frustrated face that forced him to finally, and slowly, remove one.

"You know how loud you're shouting?" said the woman.

He looked at her, said he didn't think he was talking so loud, then turned away and put the AirPod right back in again. No apology, of course.

He did become quieter. Could it really be that he hadn't, in fact, been having a conversation? Could it be, in fact, that he'd merely been shouting at the TVs? Well, they were tuned to CNN.

I was too far behind him to know for sure.

The woman turned toward the man on the next treadmill. They shared bemused expressions.

I won't labor the notion that the world is insane. We know this. It's just a question of degrees -- one being the degree to which technology has contributed.

Somehow, though, AirPods have become an especially virulent means of insulating yourself not only from the world but also from the world's basic decencies. If we're happy in our own little worlds, if we can keep that world's noise out, why should we care what anyone else might think or feel? Why should we even pay attention to the fact that they exist?

As this modern theater was being played out, I turned toward the man on the bike next to me.

"I could hear him through these things," he said, quite softly. He was wearing Bose over-ear headphones.

AirPod Man only spent a couple more minutes on the bike. He left the gym soon afterward.

This may be uncharitable, but I found myself hoping he'd lose an AirPod on his way home. Just so that I could imagine how loud he'd scream then.