Do you ever just sit and listen?

The Horrific Symphony


“It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.” Strange words to be stuck in my head to start the day.

There are eight offices surrounding the island of cubicles where my desk is located. From this spot I can hear conversations from almost every employee in this section of the building.

Someone is spelling out a word over the phone. “N.A.I.E.”

Another voice chirps details of the alcohol consumed over the weekend.

Muffled tones from behind a closed door in the familiar key of sarcasm.

There is a faint whistle from the nose of a coworker as he exhales. Someone slurps his morning cup of coffee. I think about the rhythm of these sounds, wondering if they will sync up. Whistle, whistle, whistle. Sip. Chirp. SAAARRRcasm. Whistle, whistle, whistle. They don’t realize that they are performing a twisted modern art symphony.

“It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.” I question what my purpose is as I contemplate the horrific musicality of my surroundings.

Yesterday there was a moaning sound. I thought someone was crying. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. Was it the muffled sound of tears that occasionally comes through a closed manager’s door? It wouldn’t be the first time.

No, this sound was closer. It was coming from a couple cubicles over. I wondered if I should check on her. The moan was to quiet to be tears so I remained seated. From the change in tone I deduced that she must be listening to music with her headphones on. She hums so softly that she must not realize that it can be heard beyond her cubicle. I tried to see if I could tell what song it was. Amazing Grace perhaps? Nah.

“It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.” I can get through this. Now it’s stuck in my head. “…save a wretch, like me. I once was lost…”

The worst coworker sound is sunflower seeds. The rhythm of that song goes like this:

Chorus: Plastic bag crinkle. Scratching of seeds against plastic. A faint wet impact of seeds against tongue. Seeds rattling against teeth as they are moved into position into the cheek pocket. Pause.

Verse: Snap, as a seed gets squeezed between teeth. Crunch. Spit. The ping of a husk making contact with the side of a plastic cup. A hollow tap as the cup is put down.

Most sunflower musicians perform about ten verses between each chorus. Often a bridge is included as follows.

Bridge: Trashcan slid across carpet. Plastic cup tapped against bag liner. Release of husk pile from cup. Slide. A loose splat as the seed pile makes contact with bottom of trash can. Trashcan returned under desk. Repeat chorus.

“It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.” Nobody should have to endure this. We are creative beings, our lives should have purpose.

I usually like the sound of keyboard clicking, or at least it doesn’t bother me the way that other sounds do. Each keyboard click represents a letter. Different words produce different tones. The tones combine into sentences. It is the sound of thoughts being transformed into shareable ideas. The audible by-product of the process that connects our brains to one another. It is a productive sound.

Some people can even ruin that sound. You have probably heard it. It is the clickity clack of the person who types with attitude. Instead of a natural stream of consciousness, the attitude typer’s rhythm is off. There are no pauses between words. It is as if the fingers can’t keep up with their disdain.

The fingers are saying, “I. can’t. believe. I. have. to. waste. my. time. explaining. this. to. you.” It’s amazing that you can hear this just in their typing, but you can. Somehow they can make it sound as if the act of typing is beneath them.

Angry typing is accentuated by emphatic punctuation marks. PERIOD! EXCLAMATION! QUESTION! You get the impression that the typer is holding their breath as they type. Waiting for punctuation marks to exhale a scornful sigh.

“It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.” I heard that in the old days an apprentice would have to watch the craftsman for years before they could have the honor of attempting the noble work that would define the rest of their life.

The walls of the restroom are thin. Each tug of toilet paper rattles the stall. When the rattle isn’t followed by the cranking of the paper towel dispenser I take note. When the door opens I sit up straight so I can see the top of the perpetrator’s head as it bobs above the cubicle walls. Remember to never shake hands with…

“It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.”

Some days I can will myself into action, the pride of a job well done is reason enough to complete my tasks.

Not today. Today I just sit and listen to the music.


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