Muzak Of Their Choice Isn't Music To My Ears

Janet's World

July 19, 2009|By Janet Gilbert | Janet Gilbert,Special to The Baltimore Sun

I like music. But I tend to like the music I have picked out and purchased. What's more, I only like to listen to certain music at certain times. For example, I'll put on a particular group of artists when I'm feeling introspective, an entirely different group when I'm angry, another when I'm ecstatic and yet another when I'm nostalgic.

As a result, all sorts of weird memories have attached themselves to songs in the repertoire of my life. To this day, I can't listen to Barry Manilow's "Mandy" without wanting to sit down and write a weepy, yearning love letter. When that song came out, I was in high school and I liked a guy who lived in a distant state. Although Manilow actually released another song with mawkish lyrics that more aptly paralleled my situation ("Weekend in New England"), for some reason I always wrote my effusive missives to "Mandy." There's something about those rapid key changes that mirrored the erratic hormone levels coursing through my veins.

This reflective teenage moment has been brought to you courtesy of the album Barry Manilow II.

But my point is, I don't think I'm the only one who selects music to suit, enhance or change my mood. And I don't think I'm the only one who hears a particular song and immediately thinks: "Marlene Tusso is the meanest girl ever!" Well, perhaps that exact phrase doesn't come to mind, but you know what I mean.

This is precisely why it's so risky to pipe music in through speakers in retail stores and supermarkets and hair salons. I had to leave a mall once because I simply couldn't stand to hear "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina & the Waves one more time.

But at least we consumers have a choice when we're out shopping and being aurally assaulted. What about when you are trapped with someone else's music choice?

I'm speaking about needing to call a person or organization and being put on hold with automatic music streaming in your ear. In my case, music on hold only conflicts with the music playing in my office or running through my head, so I find it annoying. I prefer plain, old silence on hold. I don't even want some automaton breaking in to thank me for my patience and predict the number of minutes before a customer service agent will be with me.

Music on hold can also be disturbingly inappropriate. Imagine you are holding, waiting to consult with the funeral home director, and suddenly you hear "Celebration" by Kool & The Gang. You could be put on hold at the hospital's front desk while the receptionist looks up the patient's room number and happen to hear Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing." Or you could be tormented by The Beatles' "Yesterday" while waiting for the bridal shop attendant to check the status of your wedding gown.

This is what happened to me last week: I was feeling quite chipper, calling a company to claim my coupon for the free bag of dog food I had earned through prior purchases. While on hold waiting for a representative, this plaintive, repetitive instrumental blues song came on. It was really sad, mournful music, and it just kept bringing me down, down, down.

Suddenly I couldn't help but think about how I was going to feel when my dog gets old and I might be confronted with the Marley & Me scene. When the representative finally picked up the line, I had to blow my nose loudly in his ear.

This morning I had to phone the U.S. passport office, which recently lost my daughter's original birth certificate. I was, of course, put on hold. But at least they didn't have the audacity to blast me with "Can't Find My Way Home" by Blind Faith.

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