The Silence is Killing Me!

I turned down the volume of my car stereo as my bank’s automated operator answered the phone.  First, I don’t recommend multitasking while driving. Second, I live in America, why is the automated voice British? (Not that I mind British accents, it just seems rather juxtaposed).  After the laundry list of options, the voice eloquently spoke, “Please press nine if you would like to speak to a bank representative.”  So, I pressed nine, and pulled up to a red light. I looked at my dash clock—I was  probably going to be late for work. As I impatiently waited for the light to turn green, I found myself bobbing my head with the beat of, not the usual call tone of a held call, but instead, the music that was playing in place of the call tone.

As I rounded the corner to work, I hung up the call—after hearing the same interlude of overplayed  electronic drums and some kind of overlaid trance techno voice seven times.  As I stepped out of my car, tied my apron around my waist, and walked into The Flipping Egg (a great breakfast/lunch place on the south side of Abilene, definitely worth a shot if you haven’t tried it), I heard the familiar “BOOM, BOOM” of someone’s bass turned up way too high.

“Good morning! How are you doing today, sir?” I cheerily asked my first customer.

The older man looked up at me with bright eyes, excited to be up before eight o’clock in the morning, “I’m doin’ just fine, darlin’, thank ya! I’ll have a cup ‘o coffee, if you don’t mind.”

I brought it back out to him, humming a tune I’d heard earlier, “Here you go, sir. And what can I get you to eat?”

He listed off his choice breakfast items, with his head buried in the menu, but then he looked up asked, “It’s quiet in here, I could hear you humming!” And then it hit me—it was quiet! I can’t believe I hadn’t noticed this anomaly—then again, this was only my second day.

Music holds a pretty steady beat in our society—we hear it at restaurants, in elevators, as call and ring tones, and as commercial backgrounds.  Music, or the lack of, tends to set the mood for how we generally feel about whatever medium the music is being played through.  If my bank is playing music on their call tone that is obnoxious and cacophonic, I’m probably going to talk to their representative with an equivalently angered tone, but if it’s relaxing and calming, I’ll be more likely to reciprocate that mood.  If the music has a fast tempo, I’m likely to be anxious (hence why I generally dislike commercials), while if it is slower, I’ll be just fine.  But, if there is no music, I’m probably going to complain about the lack of it.  On the flip side, at a restaurant  if the music is too loud and I can’t talk to the person I’m eating my meal with, I’m probably going to complain about how much music there is. If I had to guess, I’d say most people would agree with me.

Whether we are avid music hunters and constantly scour the web for new music or if we are casual listeners, we are constantly surrounded by it.  Personally, I enjoy music and silence about the same, but there are certain contexts when one or the other is most appropriate.  Listen in to your daily tasks and see what you hear (or don’t hear) this week, and let me know.

But at the end of the week, when you’ve had enough of listening to the steady buzz, listen to The Appetizer’s radio show, and hear some tunes which top any automated music played seven times on a held phone call. Click HERE to find the show.


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