My mother used to claim I would lose my head if it were not screwed on. How I have suffered with that ancient rebuke. Dear Mother, I do not lose things. I simply store them in mysterious places.
In May of 2015, my wife and I invited our 27-year-old son to join us on our first trip to Paris. This vacation was especially important to me. I used to be somewhat fluent in the language, having studied French throughout junior high, high school and college. To my great pleasure, after landing in the City of Lights, I discovered that I had not lost my command of the language, and through some miracle, I had not lost anything else. My passport was still in my pocket, the Euros were still in my wallet, and my guide dog was still at the end of his leash.
I also managed to hang on to my iPhone. I did not lose it in the Catacombs, or atop the Eiffel Tower. I had it with me in the Louvre and in Notre Dame. I even replied to emails in quaint cafes and I used it to capture the magical sounds of a truly enchanting city.
And then, a few days into our Parisian adventure, we decided to take the Paris subway from our hotel to a fancy restaurant. We walked down the millions of steps into the tunnels and waited for the Metro train. My son and I agreed that his Mom should get on the train first so that we could most easily keep track of each other. It seemed like a great idea.
The train rolled in. The doors flew open. My wife stepped in. The doors closed. Richard and I were still on the platform. The grand plan was falling apart.
Richard and his Mom were calling out to each other through the thick subway glass, trying to communicate with muffled voices and hand signals. I was standing there, befuddled, knowing what my mother would think. The train pulled away, vanishing into the darkness. I had, in a foreign country, just lost my wife.
So what possessed me to even consider buying Apple's wireless AirPods a few months ago? They are small, lightweight, easy to forget and always perch precariously from a tiny shelf of ear cartilage. I have learned two great truths about my AirPods over the last one hundred days: They are easy to love and easy to lose.
My old wired EarPods were just fine for a long time. If I dropped an EarPod, I could simply trail the wire like bread crumbs to rediscover the treasure. But, Apple cut my audio umbilicus with the new iPhone 7 by removing the dedicated headphone jack. I understand that wired EarPods are packaged with the new iPhones, but they use the Lightning port, which is also the way I top off my battery during the day. I decided I'd better get used to the wireless lifestyle before I upgrade my iPhone later this year.
I took a deep breath and made the AirPods investment. Around the same time, I also bought the BeatsX wireless offering, as well as the BT Waves much less expensive headset. Nowadays, I almost never touch the BeatsX or BT Waves products. The AirPods are well-engineered, delightfully intuitive and much, much nicer. I do love them.
Still, AirPods have a weakness. Gravity. Since I work at home, I generally only use my AirPods in the house. This helps as they are more easily found when they take a leap. Thankfully, they don't shatter on impact. However, I remain fearful. Even after all these months, I still forget when my AirPods are dangling in place. On many occasions, I have lifted an arm to reach up into a kitchen cabinet, knocking an AirPod loose, immediately sending me into a frenzy. There is no dignity in my dropping to my knees on the tiled floor, hoping I do not land on the precious item, then sweeping the surface with my fingers, trying to recapture the elusive device.
My AirPods are even vulnerable when I sit in my living room comfy chair. My guide dog is frequently involved in dislodging one or both AirPods as I relax. Grandin has a couple of endearing traits that cause me minor grief. At least once a day, while I am sitting, Grandin will stand on his two hind legs and drape his front paws over my shoulders. He really likes to wipe his nose on my shirt. I am his handkerchief. And, if those two front paws do not successfully fling my AirPods into the abyss, his other little habit certainly will. Grandin thinks it is important to sniff my ears, just checking my identity to be sure that I am who I claim to be. That wet nose of his has launched many an AirPod.
Fortunately, I can usually find the missing AirPods with just a little crawling, but I have occasionally needed to use the AirPod "Play Sound" option inside the "Find My iPhone" app. The audible beacon it triggers is just loud enough for me to locate the missing item. Because I almost only wear my AirPods indoors, I have never had to go hunting outside where the ambient noise might drown out the emergency audio alert.
Of course, the fact that AirPods are so comfortable and easy to forget has left me susceptible to feeling a tad foolish. Recently, I took my iPhone upstairs to the master bathroom. I set down my phone and AirPods case and stepped into the walk-in shower. I waited until the rest of me was clean before I started to shampoo my hair, lathering up my silver locks. And then I noticed my AirPods hanging from my ears. I'd been in the shower for about a half hour and was mortified. Rather than immediately step out of the shower with soapy hair, I carefully rinsed out the suds and toweled off. I stepped out, put the AirPods on a dry washcloth, and felt dumb as dirt. I patted them dry and decided to just see how permanent the damage was. I put them back into my ears, started the Music app on my phone, and I immediately heard Billy Joel singing, "Only the Good Die Young." Perfect! No damage at all. Somehow they survived a hot shower and shampoo. Do not try this at home. Your mileage may vary.
The previously water-logged pair still works like new. No impact on sound or battery life. What a thrill! In fact, I had bought a second pair of AirPods because I use them all day, every day. After about five hours, I hear the warning signal in the ear piece that the current set is down to 10% of their battery reserve. I immediately put the first pair back into their charging case and start using the second set. Rather than wait fifteen minutes to get a decent charge on the depleted AirPods, I simply use the extra pair so that I have no loss in productivity. For me, the additional set of AirPods was very much worth the cost.
I have been very lucky, and thrilled with my new wireless AirPods. The last hundred days have been fun. I was also very lucky and thrilled in the Paris subway. Before my wife disappeared in the train, my son and his mom successfully communicated that she should get off at the next stop and wait for the next train from our station. She did and we were reunited about fifteen minutes later. My own mother would not worry too much about lost AirPods, but I might have been given quite a lecture if I had left my wife in Paris.
G. Morgan Watkins spent thirty years at the University of Texas at Austin, most of it in information technology leadership, where he also co-authored a popular Graduate School textbook about a standard Macintosh programming environment, "The Educator's Guide to HyperCard and HyperTalk." He also served on the Guide Dogs for the Blind Board of Directors and later as their Acting President and CEO.
Morgan is now happily retired again, and playing both his old violin and his new mandolin. Morgan has created 17 other blogs for AppleVis, including "Sounds In The Sofa: Learning To Love My AirPods," "Blind Santa: Audible Books from me to me," and "Sleeping With The Stars: Old Time Radio and my iPhone." Morgan always appreciates your comments and feedback.