Don't Play It Again, Sam


May 22, 1994|BY DAVE BARRY

Recently several alert readers sent me a news item from the Houston Chronicle that struck a responsive chord in the upright piano of my brain. The item begins as follows:

"San Antonio -- A man fed up with the repetitive strains of 'Pop! Goes the Weasel' from an ice cream truck attacked the hapless 67-year-old driver with an ice cream cone and a pickle jar, police say."

Here we have yet another argument for a mandatory five-day "cooling off" period on the purchase of ice cream. Because in this day and age there is no excuse for this kind of violent incident. Just because a driver is operating a truck that repeatedly blares an annoying song over a loudspeaker in a public place, that does not mean that we should attack him with dairy products and condiment containers. We should use nuclear weapons.

Forgive me for sounding hostile, but I am getting sick and tired of loud, intrusive music in public. It is everywhere. All the shopping malls and restaurants and airports are riddled with low-fidelity loudspeakers; these are all connected to a special programming service called Music That Nobody Really Likes, and you cannot get away from it. For example, recently I was in a shopping-mall restroom, and suddenly, without warning, the speaker started blaring out the inexplicable 1963 hit song "Dominique," by the Shrieking Nun.

Listen, Mr. or Ms. Shopping Mall Manager: I speak for all humanity when I say that, when I am in your restroom, I am not in there to listen to a nun.

Likewise, Mr. or Ms. Airport Manager, I don't go to your airport to listen to music. I go there for the same reason as millions of other business travelers, which is to be hassled by religious loons and find out that my flight has been canceled.

And as for you, Mr. or Ms. Restaurant Owner: I don't mind if, while I'm eating, there's an actual musician somewhere in the background tinkling softly on a piano. But why do restaurants play music so loudly that people cannot communicate?

Waitress (shouting): Good evening. My name is Betty.

Customer (shouting): Does that come with clam sauce?

And it's just as bad when you go outside. One afternoon I was at a beach, along with hundreds of other people, all of us enjoying a pleasant afternoon listening to the barely audible "ping" of solar rays ricocheting off of our No. 4.7 Million Sun Block, when some young men arrived with a boombox the size of my first house, and of course it was playing music by Todd Tuneless And His Sounds of Ugly, and of course it was turned up so loud that the Atlantic Ocean started going backward to sea to get away from the noise.

You could see that a lot of the people on the beach were annoyed, but nobody dared to say anything. Finally, I had had enough. I am not ordinarily a courageous person, but I stood up, brushed the sand off my butt, and decided that, no matter what the personal risk, I was going to write a newspaper column on this topic.

That would have been a perfect situation for an invention conceived of by my dentist, Stanley Krugman. Stanley is always having ideas. He'll be peering into a patient's mouth, trying to figure out if he can cram any more dental appliances in there, and suddenly he'll have an idea, and he'll instruct the patient to rinse while he calls me up to tell me about it.

This particular idea involves a small but powerful transmitter that you'd carry around. When a person started playing a loud boombox in your vicinity, you'd simply press a button, and the transmitter would send out a signal, and the person's head would explode.

No, that would be wrong. Innocent people could be hurt by the shrapnel. Stanley's actual idea is that the signal would cause the boombox to emit annoying static. Of course there's always the danger that the kind of people who play loud, ugly music in public would like annoying static; maybe it would be better if the signal caused the boombox to play "Pop! Goes the Weasel."

Anyway, I think somebody should make a transmitter like this and send me one. I think it should also have a feature whereby, when you're driving, you could point it at a car in front of you and press a button that would cause the car's radio, even if it was turned off, to shout at the driver, in Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf's voice: "If you're going to drive 38 miles per hour, get the hell out of the passing lane, you maggot."

Also it should be able to make neighborhood dogs shut up.

Also the U.S. Congress.

You can rinse now.

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