The (non) Sound of Silence

6 Dec

I am pretty sensitive to noises, which is strange because I actually have some ear problems and am practically half-deaf most of the time. But when I can hear clearly, I hear EVERYTHING. I’ve been known to actually move to a different subway car when someone is sitting three seats down from me slurping coffee. I become super tense when someone taps their fingers on the table, hums/whistles an incoherent tune, clicks their teeth, taps their foot non-rhythmically, runs their hands through notebook pages, texts…basically all ambient noise drives me crazy. I know I sound ridiculous, and probably a bit crazy, but it’s annoying! Maybe I have sound ADD. I wouldn’t be surprised.

At 4:30 in the morning, all of those sounds are amplified approximately, um, 10 billion times to my sensitive ears, and unfortunately, the colleague I work with through these long, toiling hours is pretty much the queen of driving me up the wall. See, she has a nose ring, and for 8 straight hours, probably out of sheer, unrecognized habit, clicks her fingernail against the metal of the ring. When this first happened, I was convinced she was picking her nose, which is what it looks like out of my slanted, sideways-cast, hyper alert eyes. “Where is that sound coming from?!” they say, searching manically for a source. But now that I’ve identified the source, I’ve become intensely in-tune to the fact that she’s making it… consistently…for eight hours.

But what am I supposed to say? I know, obviously nothing. Anyway, I’m not sure how I would even attempt to broach the subject:

“Um, excuse me, I know you probably don’t realize that you’re even doing this or the effect it’s having on me, which is that I pretty much want to scream every time I hear it, but your nose-ring clicking/picking/whatever it is you’re doing is SO ANNOYING PLEASE STOP. STOP IT STOP IT STOP. Can I get you anything from the kitchen? No? Ok, I’ll be back in a few.”

Again, social filters inform me this is probably a bad idea. But what am I supposed to do? I work with this woman everyday, and aside from this one flaw, she’s really nice and super-cool. But the clicking is taking over every other opinion I have of her. I’m trying headphones today, which is sort of working, except for the two seconds between song changes when I can hear her clicking away. Plus, I feel sort of rude listening to music when it’s just the two of us. Such a life dilemma.

Should I get blinders–“see no evil, hear no evil” style? Chop my ears off all together? Get a grip on myself? I’d put it to a poll, but somehow I think the response would be an overwhelming choice 3. I get no sympathy around here.

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