Story time: Why iPods are near and dear to me.

aka “xo makes a reddit post and his mind goes off on a tangent and he can’t stop thinking about it so here’s a blog post about it.”

Before we get too deep into this, the backstory of this whole post: A friend of mine offloaded a bunch of iPod parts onto me, and with those I was able to make a few spares, all but one handed off to friends of mine who wanted one of their own. I saved one for myself because I wanted to build an exact replica of the 5th gen PandaPod that I had in 2007. And that I did, complete with the album that was in my head at the time:

The PandaPod, reborn in 2021.

You might be thinking: “Anyone can build one of those, why are you acting like it’s the second coming of Jesus?”

Because, oh dear reader, the original PandaPod I built had seen some shit. When I look at this thing, those memories come rushing back, almost as if they happened yesterday.

The PandaPod’s story began in the first half of 2007. Through some lucky breaks and friends offloading their “old” stuff, I snatched up a killer deal on an iPod 5G in black. It was a very nice upgrade from the 2G nano that I had been using. I could actually put tons of songs on this thing, holy crap! And being one of those unlucky people accursed with Aspberger’s, having an iPod to help my concentration was an absolute godsend through the hell that was my last few months in school. Sure I couldn’t use it in class all the time, but taking the time between classes to just zone out for a second, it really helped a ton.

It was such a faithful companion that when I got a job after I graduated, one of my first orders of business was to hit up iFixit and get a fresh faceplate for it, since the original one was absolutely beaten to hell and back. In an effort to be different, I picked a white faceplate to have a contrasting click wheel. I was a staunch follower of Geek Technique and all the crazy stuff he did with customizing his devices, so some of it rubbed off on me and I wanted something that didn’t look stock.

I remember waiting, looking out the window, and running out when the delivery truck rolled by to drop it off. Excited to get a fresh faceplate on this thing. It went on easy, and my faithful companion was back and better than ever. I still took it with me everywhere, even religiously to work to listen to on break/lunch.

Soon, however, this thing would be my absolute best friend in a world that felt like it was out to get me, because…one day, I went to work as normal, Worked my shift, all as normal. I went home, went to unlock the door, and…the lock’s jammed? Huh? I ring the doorbell, and one of the side room’s windows open, my mom speaking through it to tell me that effective immediately, I’m kicked out. Why? Because I was supposed to go to college, not to work, and I let down the family by not going to college. I had to ask–multiple times!–if I could even get a change of clothes. 


I was just thrown a sleeping bag and a couple of sweatshirts and told to scram. To say this was devastating would be an understatement: Not only did I not have a car at the time (so getting to work would be, uh, fun because public transit was in the midst of getting massive cuts), I was also told at work I’d be getting involuntarily transferred to another store due to hour cuts. It was bad news on top of bad news. 

My first instinct was to go over to a family friends’ house down the street. She knew things were kinda messed at home, so I figured if anyone would have advice right now, or maybe a lead on what the hell to even do, it’d be her. Thankfully, while she couldn’t let me stay there for more than a few days, she offered up her couch. She also had an iPod dock, because of course I couldn’t grab my 30-pin cable to keep my iPod-now-turned-sanity-maintenance-device charged. 

I ended up needing to find a more long-term place to stay, and thankfully some other friends were down to help out and they were more local to the store I had been relocated to. Things were coming up Milhouse, finally?


I was eternally appreciative to have a roof over my head, but at the same time I was getting pinched on two ends: I had a relationship I still had to manage, and I could tell I was beginning to overstay my welcome at my friends’ house. And of course, my sanity was getting absolutely frayed at this point because my iPod was out of commission. Between taking criticism from all directions and getting absolutely beat down at work, I needed an escape.

Screw it. There’s a Staples right across the way from my work, I’m going in and buying a 30-pin cable, I don’t give a shit anymore. I need some audio-induced bliss to at least let me forget the mess that is my life, even for a few minutes.

As if on cue, after buying the cable (for a cool $20, woo) I got panned for making bad financial decisions because I should be saving to move out. My mentality then, and my mentality now: You can’t put a price on mental salvation, and that was absolutely in short supply at the time when you feel like everyone, everyone in your life is staring you down and evaluating every step you take, and are also quick to point out when you mess up. (My parents especially at the time.)

I ended up finding a more permanent place to stay after that (girlfriend found some roommates who we could actually afford. Keep in mind this was right as the economy was also going down the shitter so things were…not good), and I still kept that little iPod on me for a good year after. I ended up passing it off to a friend of mine once I got to a better place (and ended up buying an iPod touch as a Christmas gift to myself after an absolutely garbage year). 

I should have hung onto it.

Because thinking back on it? That little iPod probably saved my life by keeping my brain from going to some dark places. Some may consider electronics like these toys, but for me? They’re sanity maintenance devices.