What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt

This photograph was shot in New York after I landed at JFK a few weeks ago for a short visit from San Francisco. We touched down late, later even than planned, and so my memory is a little foggy. I’ve pieced together the first stages of the itinerary from the timeline that is automated Google photos backup (a fairly dependable course of action in such circumstances). The timeline exception is when photos are added from other services, like those edited in Instagram or another app, or transferred over from SMS or email — and those would only appear reverse-anachronistically later in the timeline, anyhow, not earlier. In any case, I’m fairly certain that this was shot not on the intra-JFK train that shuttles you from your arrival terminal to where you gather your bags and head out into the world (maybe such a thing doesn’t even exist — like I said, I was pooped), but on one of the city’s subway trains. This shot is a closeup of a well-worn sticker fixed next to an older, larger, metal speaker/button combo labeled only in all-caps English: “Emergency Intercom,” with the additional instructions “To Talk / Press and Release Button / Wait for Steady Light.” (That last bit suggests itself for poetic treatment.) This instructional infographic — instructographic? — does a good job of connecting speaking to pushing, thanks to the red color coding, though I must note that in real life the red button is a far darker shade. The little bright green light does its assigned job of reaffirming the text, which is to say it’s just as confusing, especially in, you know, an emergency. What seems to be missing from the image is any sense of, well, emergency. The demeanor of the cartoon human seems to be that of someone serenading a favorite device (Her: The Musical, now on Broadway), not alerting authorities to the existence of a suspicious package. Also worth mentioning: the red, waveformy, RSS-logo-ish speaking pattern seems to treat the microphone (below) and speaker (above) as equals.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.

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