I teach history courses at a big university in California. Classes started three weeks ago. One of mine takes place in one of the largest lecture halls on campus. I walked into the room, which holds almost 200 people, and there on the corner of a front desk sat two CDs, one by Tom Waits, the other by Joyce Manor.
I immediately wanted to put them in my bag, especially the Waits album. It was “Rain Dogs,” one of my favorites, because it contains his amazing noir song “Walking Spanish,” which I am pretty sure is about being on death row. But I knew that taking them away would be wrong. Somebody surely will come back and pick them up, I thought. So I left the CDs on the table.
Second class: they somehow migrated to a corner desk that functions as a lost and found spot. There they sat, alluringly, waiting for their true owner to return.
Third class: they’re were still there! But I’m a man of principles, so fuggetaboutit.
Fourth class: I gave up. Gimme those CDs. “It’s day four folks!” I declared to my class. “I’m taking these CDs! Sorry!”
I heard a few “doh”s and groans among the students, but mostly they were pretty meh about the announcement. “What gives?” I thought to myself. Thousands of kids from multiple classes have walked past that podium with those yummy looking CDs sitting there for weeks. Nobody took them. Why?
I came up with two theories. Theory one: they’ve never heard of the artists. I asked some of them about Tom Waits. Sure enough, he drew blanks at the student cafe. I felt a bit old. But one kid sort of remembered. “He’s the guy with the gravely voice, right?” Right, I said, and did an imitation of his song “The Piano Has Been Drinking.” They all knew him now and laughed. And I surmised that even if they lacked knowledge of the artists, curiosity would prompt at least a few of them to take the CDs.
So I tested Theory Two: these kids are so hooked up to Spotify or some similar service that who cares about CDs any more? I asked around. Yes, we use Spotify, a majority of them told me. Faculty too, actually (with a slightly guilty tone among some with whom I spoke).
Anyway, I took the CDs home and I put one in my desktop. It prompted me to decide which application I would use to listen. I was not sure. It’s been a while since I audited a CD on my home computer, I realized. But I’d like to listen to Tom Waits, I thought.
Maybe I’ll just use Spotify . . .
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