This article on Wired is somewhat interesting. I’ve never seen anyone put so much thought into something I’d normally think is unimportant.
…for example, music allows people to use their eyes when they’re listening in public. I call it nonreciprocal looking. Listening to music lets you look at someone but don’t look at them when they look back. The earplugs tell them you’re otherwise engaged. It’s a great urban strategy for controlling interaction.
The same is true when you’re on planes. There’s nothing worse than someone who wants to talk to you the entire time. For instance, on my flight to Vegas, I sat in the window seat next to a fat lady and her portly kid; he looked about ten years old and wanted to show me how to play all of his video games; he expressed disbelief when I told him that I hadn’t played any of them. I can’t imagine what he would’ve thought if I told him how I was around when the first Nintendo Gameboy came out. He talked a lot, which made me thankful that I had two dollars and bought a headset with which to watch Runaway Jury, an absolutely awful movie. When it was over I pretended to listen to the radio for the rest of the flight so he wouldn’t talk to me anymore. He was a nice enough kid, but just talked too damn much.