May 14th, 2002



I slept rather well last night. I was so tired. The rehearsal on risers was really hard on my knees, and we went, I think, all the way to ten. The first rehearsal with orchestra is usually disconcerting and this time was no exception. But I still think we'll pull it all together and it will sound wonderful.

My hair doesn't look as natural as I'd like. Not as nice a color as the last one. But I think some of the unnaturalness will wash out soon enough. Nothing to fret about.

the future hikes

Last night another member of the chorale told me, during break, how good I looked, and asked what I am doing. I don't answer this question well. There's no simple answer because I keep changing "what I do". Which maybe is the answer, and was what I told her.

I mentioned hiking, and she said she's been looking for a new hiking partner. I was up for the post because I have been looking too. We will coordinate efforts later, after concert, after her trips to various places. We seem to be hiking at about the same level from our discussion.

She's a little opinionated - and doesn't have all the same opinions I have - and absolute about some things. I mentioned that I use a hiking guide because I have a tendency to get lost.

"I don't do 'lost'," she said.

"Some of my best adventures happen when I get lost," I laughed.

She recounted some experiences with a friend who took a cow path instead of the switchback. It's easy enough to do, I think. She doesn't. I can see our hikes as being interesting in themselves because of our two forceful personalities.


case #1: While I was waiting for a BodyPump class to begin some weeks ago, another middle-aged woman came up to me to ask if the volume of the music bothered me. I said yes. She said good, that gave her courage. She went up front to ask the instructor (one of two) to lower the volume. Which he did.

The other instructor did not hear this exchange, and not far into the class she turned the volume back up, and then up again. Finally this older woman put down her equipment and left the room. A little later, someone from the front desk came in and pulled aside the male instructor to tell him someone had filed a complaint about the volume. He turned to the class and asked us if we thought it was too loud.

I didn't speak up. I don't know why not. Others did, loudly. One of them said "It has to be that loud!" Others agreed that the class didn't work with the volume down. I knew I was outnumbered but thought I'd catch the instructors after class and let them know how I felt. As it turned out, they were already heavily into rehearsing some other routine by the time I got up there and I just left.

Case #2: I like the bagels and friendly people at Broadway Bagel in Pismo Beach. But, true to the name, the place broadcasts music from Broadway musicals all day long. Loudly. Usually some overwrought pieces from Les Miz or Cats or even Oklahoma. I can handle that only so long, so today I moved outside. . .

Case #3: . . where I was assaulted by top-forty tunes at high volume. I tried reading but kept getting distracted by this music. I thought of going to Starbucks, where I would face jazz or world music, which, I think, is at least preferable. But I'd have to buy another coffee and I didn't feel like it.

Case #4: When I asked someone in a supermarket about the music, they said they are happy to turn the volume down if requested.

Case #5: I went into a drugstore a few years ago and was being irritated by the singing I heard on the loudspeaker. I noticed, though, a customer in a nearby aisle humming and singing along with it.

Most of the workers I have asked, in many different types of businesses, have said they prefer the music to be on because "it makes the time go faster" or "it drowns out other noises", like refrigerators or fans or clanking of machinery. Some studies I have read say people buy more when there is music, that it relaxes them, makes them feel better.

I wonder, though. Now that there is NO ESCAPE is this still true? When you can't even fill up your gas tank without being attacked by Britney Spears? When the only respite is inside an insulated home and on the occasional hiking trail where others are considerate enough not to be hauling boomboxes?

I have theories about this music. I think the constant noise is a mask that creates a distraction that makes it difficult for us to think. It is a way to escape our heads. It is scary to be alone with ourselves.

So you ask: if it were a different kind of music would I feel differently? Yes and no. When I go into Barnes & Noble and hear classical music I usually do like it. But it isn't just the type. It is also the volume. Even when I sit in a soft chair there and read I am not distracted by it. It is not so low that it is an irritating hum in the background yet it is not so high we can't hear each other speak. Sometimes there is no music playing at all.

That's my suggestion. Let's hear it for no music sometimes. Just turn it off.
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