Friday, October 8, 2010


A few days ago I was sitting in the doctor’s waiting room and some insane pudgy man with spiky blonde hair was on television yelling out the secret to making egg rolls. The TV set was bolted to the ceiling with a sign that said “Please Don’t Change the Channel” and “Ask the Nurse for Assistance.” I looked around at the other folks waiting and I couldn’t see so much as one single person paying any attention to the fat chef. I could see any number of people who seemed very annoyed at the noise. Some were trying to read, others to doze. Even the receptionist was flashing dark looks at the oversized cuisinier. To make matters worse, minutes earlier an orderly had told us the doctors were running up to an hour behind, which meant most of us were essentially being held hostage by the cooking channel.

I wondered what the purpose of the TV was. Certainly, it couldn’t be entertainment. No one was smiling, and I had the feeling that out of sheer spite, none of us would ever eat an egg roll again. I asked the receptionist if we could at least change channels but she said the remote was lost and we were not allowed to stand on a chair to do it manually. I asked her if she, at least, liked the show, and she told me she didn’t even notice it, which was a lie. She had been doodling little fat chefs with spiky hair on her calendar.

I think maybe the powers-that-reign at my HMO have decided that noise is better than no noise. Maybe if we are occupied hating the noise, we will be too busy to complain about the long wait, the $30 co-pay, and the lack of any magazines save the one put out by the HMO and the AARP monthly.

It made me wonder about the value of silence.

My home is quiet. Even though I own enough CDs to stock a small store, I rarely play them. I detest Muzak, loud trucks that belch black smoke, sirens and horns, people who shout and commercials where the decibel level is 50 percent higher than the show I’m watching. I think ear buds are pure evil—we’re raising a generation of Future Deaf People of America, and I don’t think that’s good.

But then again, I used to play in rock ‘n’ roll bands, so my hearing is already shot, and if I were thirty years or so younger, I wouldn’t listen to me about anything, much less a complain that the world is too damned loud.

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