Sensory assault accepted as entertainment

Lest you be confused, this is a loose continuation of my last column on youth fighting over getting to ride “shotgun” in my vehicle.

It’s all I can do to control myself, because if there’s one thing I hate, it’s loud sounds. With my sensory sensibilities already offended by raised volume ridiculousness over who gets the front passenger seat, I’m primed for primal behavior. Then the shotgun battle victor plops down beside me in my vehicle and cranks the volume knob not after locating, but BEFORE and WHILE searching for the desired radio station. Aaaargh!

The only thing worse than music played at deafening levels is static and commercial advertisements played at deafening levels. It makes me want to puke. Maybe I should. You know, yell out, “Your $#@&! music makes me sick” and then upchuck all over Chuck, who is so busy punching buttons and being surrounded by sound it takes him a while to notice there’s puke on his person.

I’m seriously thinking about designing a musical microchip implants for the heads of my students, to pipe in music only they can hear without disturbing the rest of us. No more lost headsets or earbuds, either. Plus, it would deepen their innate ability to tune out the rest of the world.

Of course, I would also supply the significant adults in their lives with a signal jamming device that could send periodic public services announcements, like, “Do your homework,” and possibly a stream of saccharine elevator music as punishment for failure to make the bed or feed the dog.

Never underestimate unlikeable music’s power to make a point. I once threatened a wayward teen if he didn’t dress appropriately for and behave appropriately during the court hearing to which I was transporting him, I would force him to listen to Barney (the purple dinosaur) sing-a-long songs and polka music on the return two-hour trip. A flash of the offensive CDs was all it took to scare him straight. He’s now a pastor.

United Kingdom business owners victimized by loitering, vandalism and break-ins use a device known as “The Mosquito” to broadcast a highly-annoying, high-pitched sound that quickly clears the area. U.S. law enforcement officials have experimented with clearing teenage loiterers from public places by blaring classical music their way. Of course, I’m not sure it would work on those whose parents bought into the Baby Mozart craze.

Let’s get something straight: with a few exceptions, it’s not the music, itself, that makes me ill. It’s the faulty premise that music is a need versus a want, and the notion every motion and emotion in life must be soundtracked. Among some youth, even the moment of silence before mealtime prayer seems an unbearable eternity.

Adults are as bad, if not worse, for they allegedly know better, but don’t. Sports bars are opening at a record rate to accommodate the adult desire for full-scale sensory assault. My experience of getting together with a group last Sunday night at Buffalo Wild Wings illustrates what I am talking about. Or maybe I should say shouting over to be heard. I’m still hoarse from attempting conversation with the person next to me.

High ceilings made the acoustics terrible. Background music was playing in the foreground, merging seamfully (the opposite of “seamlessly”) with loud color commentary coming from at least one of the huge television screens lining the walls of the room, filled with images of various sporting events, each a blur of activity in itself. Glasses were clinking, servers were taking talking up specials, taking orders and singing “Happy Birthday” to people framed by their so-called friends. Everyone shouted. Had to.

In addition to the auditory and visual overload, all kinds of over-the-top, spicy foods were served, presumably so numbed-down tastebuds could be challenged along with hearing and vision. Then came the thermoceptive treat of the cooling system blowing out chilly air in such big gusts we had to use silverware and condiment containers to anchor our napkins to the table.

“Overwhelming” doesn’t even begin to describe the atmosphere. Scarily, everyone but me seemed oblivious to it. Apparently sensory assault rank highs on their scale of entertainment. May it never on mine.



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. michael summerfield
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 01:18:31

    Hi Kristi – another great article!  You nailed a couple of pet peeves of mine!

    This post has at least three complete posts within.   Whereas a newspaper article requires a broad swat at a topic to indulge as many readers as possible, a blog allows you to drill down and really wring out a particular facet of thought.  On a blog, the reader simply moves on to the next or prior thought until satiated.  A newspaper reader turns the page.

    Someday, when you have lots of time or when you are hard up for a topic, you might go back and review some posts.  I bet you will find can dissect, isolate and embellish on previous topics.  Isolating a specific thought like “riding shotgun,” “soundtracking life,” “teenage fear of quiet,” “sensory overstimulation as entertainment” can each be fleshed out and developed individually and thoroughly.  Each could stand alone as a humorous masterpiece – tight, focused and hilarious.

    Just sayin’.

    As usual, I share your posts on my Facebook page.  You might want to add a social networking bar at the top of your posts so people can share your posts more easily.  The “like this” at the bottom requires a WordPress login that I can never remember.  Also, you might consider having your name somewhere.  How are your metrics?  Has your readership been growing?  

    Here’s another thought … if you were arrange your previous posts by topic rather than chronologically, I think you’ll find the structure of your first book.

    Have a great holiday!




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