The car easing from the street into the gas station, blasting music, did not strike me at first as a tipping point.

I was just pumping gas, wondering if the $147 in my wallet would cover the quarter of a tank I was getting, when the epiphany began to unfold.

First, I noticed that the car was a top-down convertible.

It takes a Certain Type of Person to blast his music so loud that the street shakes, windows shatter, and pedestrians clutch their chests, mistaking pounding bass notes for a heart attack. But it takes a Special Kind of Certain Type of Person to do it in a top-down convertible.

While the garden-variety Certain Type of Person can act like,"What? It was loud?" when someone at a stoplight looks over with a sneer on his face, a guy in a top-down convertible, aka a Special Kind, can't pretend. He doesn't even attempt to try.

While a Certain Type of Person enjoys his music loud, he is, believe it or not, at least cognizant of the world around him. A Special Kind is unencumbered by a regard for others.

As I squeeze the gas pump and watch the convertible pull into the station, I wonder just what kind of guy is a Special Kind. But, of course, I know exactly what kind of guy he is. So do you. We know that he is, well, first and always, a he. Second, we know that he is young. Third, we know he is testosteronic, a Bowflex on wheels.

So imagine my surprise when the guy who climbed out of that convertible was - and I am not exaggerating - roughly 73 years old.He was a trim, ­distinguished-looking gentleman whose neatly cut white hair showed from beneath his handsome beige baseball cap, which matched his sharply creased beige slacks. His entire demeanor suggested he was a person who had just come from a rigorous reading session at the library.

Nor was the music washing over me in a tidal wave of sound rap orrock. It was classical.

I stopped pumping to stand there pondering the meaning of it all. My first thought was obvious. "Dude," I wanted to say, "give me a break with the Brahms."

Then I realized something: The bad thing about having an epiphany is not knowing what to make of it. Like Mr. Jones in Bob Dylan's famous "Ballad of a Thin Man," there was something happening, and I didn't know what it was.

Clearly, this moment represented some sort of shift in our culture. But … what? If an old guy is blasting classical music, does that mean that the blasting-music thing has so permeated society that it is accepted? Or does it mean that the blasting-music thing is passé?

I was, it seemed to me, observing the very personification of a tipping point, and I was unable to discern the direction of the tip.

People get rich making sense (or making you believe they are making sense) of this kind of stuff. So I tried to make sense of it in hopes that I would get rich.

It occurred to me that I was not encountering as many music-blasting cars as I had a few years ago. Was this true? I wondered. If so, why? It just didn't make sense to me that there should be a decrease in the activity, given that blasting music is easy and fun, and that there has been no reduction in CDs or males.

But maybe it was true. After all, research clearly shows that the adoption of some greater social trend by an old guy is proof that the trend is officially over. Here, then, was empirical evidence to support my perception about less music-blasting in cars. (I have no idea what empirical means, but to get rich, you need words like that.)

On the other hand, it didn't strike me that the invasion of public space, which music-blasting represents, had abated at all. In fact, people blather louder than ever on their cell phones while sitting in restaurants or shopping at supermarkets or even lounging around at home, their conversations bigfooting everything around them. By that measure, then, if the old guy was empirical of anything, it was of loudness being a tolerated part of our lives. Ergo, the trend was not over; it was ingrained.

Or maybe the guy wasn’t empirical at all. Maybe he was just a guy in a car.

I finished pumping gas and drove off, contemplating one last thing: I wonder if Bob Dylan ever feels like Mr. Jones?

By Jim Shahin