Is anyone else annoyed by background noise? I don’t mean the Muzak in the elevator, although that fits too. I refer to the more subtle stuff. Watching a TV drama the other day, I became aware of a single low tone in the background. Violins, I think. Yes, music can enhance the mood of the action and many times really ups the ante on tension or terror. But this was simply intrusive, like tinnitus, that pervasive ringing in the ears from Lord only knows where. That low tone behind the TV action suddenly jumped to the fore, a spot certainly not intended by the scriptwriters. At least, I hope it wasn’t intentional. Pretty soon, I heard The Hum behind far too many dramas. Supposedly, it would make me clutch my armchair more tightly, bite my lip or hold my breath in response to the heightened tension. Instead, The Hum started me shaking my head, like a dog trying to rid itself of a misplaced party hat. That escalated to turning the volume down or changing the channel. Neither was satisfactory, especially if the show was one I really wanted to see. However, the only solution was to retreat and turn it off. Sigh.
By that time, I was finely tuned, rather than habituated, to background noise. The stuff appeared everywhere. Elevators go without saying. But how often am I in an elevator? I’m a stair lady, so that avoids any problem. But my health club ran a loop of music on the workout floor as well as in the locker rooms. Not a problem, for the most part. But when I heard “Piano Man” three times in a short workout, my annoyance meter notched up rapidly. All right, I exaggerate. But I did hear two employees discussing the pool they were running, to keep count of how many times a particular song came up in one day. Time for a new music tape.
I’ve finally trained myself to filter out background drones on TV, in gyms and malls, around air conditioners and fans. As long as boring conversations don’t run at those frequencies, I think I’m safe.