Consequences Part 3

September 9th, 2011 by Wordsman

He hadn’t expected sitting down in his cube to cure him, or to make him feel any more comfortable; in fact, the tune was at its loudest yet.  But in his cube there was a computer, and the computer could be used to do research.  He had expected to use it for that purpose every day, but this was his first significant online investigation at work since Wachowsky had told him to look up some information about “tortes.”  Because he had plenty of spare time, and because he thought there was at least a small chance that Wachowsky had actually meant to include the final e, Peter did the project twice, once about breaches of civil duty and once about cakes.  However, worried that the latter could be interpreted as a crack about the partner’s weight, he only turned in the former.  For whatever reason, Wachowsky had never since asked him to do research.

It was rough going.  He Wikipedia-ed “Song stuck in your head,” but it wasn’t very helpful.  He learned that the phenomenon can be called earworm, music meme, humsickness, repetunitis, or tune wedgy, and that it is more likely to seriously bother women than men, but he found these facts somewhat less than helpful.  The entire article contained only one sentence on cures: “The best way to eliminate an unwanted earworm is to simply play a different song.”

Peter had tried that.  He continued to try it, blasting random songs he found on the internet at volumes that must have pissed off his fellow clerks.  Presumably they only let him get away with it because they felt that an Abrahamson thrashing was more than enough for one person to be put through in a day.

Bum ba da da dee ba buuum

It didn’t work.

Web MD was also a bust.  He actually found an article on the topic, which was more than he had expected, since as far as he knew getting a song stuck in your head wasn’t considered a disease.  Unfortunately, the conclusion was the same as everywhere else: no known way to improve the situation, and definitely no cure.  The article did include a list of the Top Ten Most Stick-able Songs according to a 2003 study.  On any other day, reading this list would have been a nightmare and destroyed his already limited productivity.  Peter tried to use them as ammunition; surely one of these awfully invasive jingles, TV themes, and one-hit wonder hits would be strong enough to defeat the one that was currently occupying his mind.  But even the worst that the Baha Men, the Village People, and Disneyworld could offer wasn’t enough to dislodge it.

Bum ba da da dee ba buuum

After that his “research” became increasingly less directed.  He looked up several hallucinogenic drugs but was distressed to find that, by most accounts, they made music more intense.  He went back to Web MD in search of information on lobotomies, such as how much they cost and whether the aftereffects were really as bad as they seemed.  He considered contacting his old high school band director before deciding that even after giving the Speech he was not up to writing the most awkward email of his life (“Dear Ms. Lackland: How have you been?  So, there’s this song stuck in my head . . .”).

He also tried downloading some free composition software.  Listening to music had failed to solve his problem, but what about writing music?  He tossed a few notes onto the page and played back his new piece, which he had titled: “Ode to a Clear Mind.”  It sounded something like this:

Bum ba da da dee ba buuum

After that, he spent a lot of time staring at the ceiling.  He thought about sleeping, since the “Go to bed and feel better in the morning” school of medicine had often served him well in the past.  He certainly wouldn’t have been the first summer law clerk to incorporate nap time into his “busy” schedule.  But what if he dreamed?  After all, dreams reside in the subconscious, and wouldn’t it make sense to think that this is also the lair of the vile Earworm?  What if the tune took over?  What if he never woke up?

Of course, because of his severe lack of sleep the night before, even this horrifying possibility was not enough to prevent his eyelids from sliding shut.  Perhaps fortunately, the mystery song was annoying enough to keep him from ever drifting into actual sleep.  Instead he drifted into an unrestful stupor, the kind airline passengers often find themselves in when they are flying over the Pacific Ocean at 1 AM local time (not that “local time” has any meaning for them at that point).

Shortly before noon the daily baseball game ended, as usual (Pilots 3, Racers 2- a showdown between National League Central Division gutter teams).  As usual, his coworkers came over to invite Peter to lunch, though a bit more hesitantly than usual—after the way he had stood up to the wrath of Abrahamson, some of the other clerks had wondered if he was really human.  As usual, Peter did not accept.  Unlike usual, instead of providing an excuse, he simply said no and made a difficult-to-interpret head motion.  He also said, “Have lunch,” which was probably supposed to be, “Have a good lunch,” but for once in his life Peter was not paying attention to what he was saying.

Bum ba da da dee ba buuum

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