I listen to a lot of talk radio. I have a long commute to work, and music stations make me crazy with the commercials and the DJs yelling at me about nothing in particular and blah blah blah okay stop it. So it’s CDs or it’s talk radio.
I learn a lot when I listen to NPR or C-SPAN radio or sports talk. Some of it is boring, sure. Some of it makes me want to drive over a median into a bunch of construction equipment just to liven up the ride a little bit. But sometimes it’s really, really interesting. Like, I find myself going, “Huh!” out loud by myself in the car.
Yes, I realize this makes me everything I mocked in an adult when I was a kid. I’m sort of scared of it, I’ll confess. But my job requires me to be well-informed, and that means news and talk.
But once in a while (okay, probably more often than that), there’s this phenomenon that comes up that completely ruins the listening experience.
Oh, I hate it.
I don’t know where I get this aversion, but it’s a powerful thing. Let me explain.
I’m driving along, and I’m really into the discussion that’s going on. I’m learning, it’s compelling, it’s interesting, it’s making me think about things in ways I’ve never thought about things before… this is good! I’m becoming a better person by listening to this discussion on the radio! But then, all of a sudden…
What is that noise?
That… that clicking?
That sort of persistent but not really regular wet clicking sound?
Ohhhhh, it’s her tongue.
Oh, this is very, very bad.
Okay, maybe I can do this. I mean it’s not that bad. And this is a really interesting topic.
So I keep driving and they keep talking about how the developments in Libya mirror the developments in Iran, and I’m rolling with it. The callers are intelligent and the guest is very credible and very cogent and is explaining things in a way everyone can understand without being condescending. This is really good stuff.
Breathe. Just breathe. You’re fine.
Click click click click click.
Okay, no. Nope. I can’t do this. I have to turn it off. It’s not her fault, she’s just, you know, talking, she can’t control the fact that the microphone is so sensitive that it’s picking up every little noise her tongue makes in her mouth, and now I can’t even hear the words she’s saying for all the mouth noise the words engender, and I cannot handle this. It’s gross.
And it’s totally not fair, because my mother told me when I was pretty young that I made more noise chewing with my mouth closed than anyone she knew. Apparently I have overactive salivary glands. My mom was really the only one who ever said anything about it, but it’s evidently true. No, wait. I had a dentist who pronounced the salivary gland thing. So I really shouldn’t be that averse to this sound.
But now that I’m thinking about it, I have a lot of issues with a lot of mouth noises. I mean, I’m fine with the kissing noises, and the regular normal noises that happen when you swallow or something. I’m even okay with the occasional accidental lip-smack that happens when your lip muscles go a little wonky on you. It happens. But I was raised with really good table manners, so I hate it when people chew with their mouths open. It’s not as much about what I see as it is about what I hear. I don’t need to hear all that sloshing around and salivating and juice-merging.
I can give you two really good examples of this. When I was a senior in college, I had a roommate who ate a banana with peanut butter on it every day. Fine. She ate it in the living room in front of the television. Fine. Except she smacked her mouth around more while she ate than any. Other. Person. I have ever. Known. And when there’s peanut butter involved in that kind of mess, I have to leave the room. This poor girl had been hit by a car over the summer, broke her femur, had surgery, steel rod, and had to have physical therapy to walk again. I helped her with it and listened to her scream and cry, twice a day, every day. I could do that. But no kidding, I had to leave the room every time she ate. Sweet, pretty girl. Disgusting eating habits. Couldn’t deal with it. Gotta go.
I have a coworker who also has this problem. He doesn’t particularly pay attention to the noises he makes. He chomps chips. He sloshes soda. He masticates meat with violent abandon. And, once a day, at almost the exact time, he makes this very odd sucky-slurpy sound when he’s not eating or drinking a thing.
I almost always turn around and look at him when he does that.
And that’s not all he does. He blows his nose constantly. Loudly and wetly. Now, I get it when you have a cold or the flu or a sinus affliction. It sucks, it’s no fun, it has to be done. This guy apparently had sinus surgery not long ago, so there are some issues… I don’t know. All I know is he blows his nose a lot, and it’s always really really nasty-sounding. And he also snorts. And sniffs.
I have another coworker who sniffs so much that I actually suspect he has a cocaine habit. It’s the weirdest, near-constant thing. I don’t know how he doesn’t hyperventilate. How does one develop that kind of habit? He also always has three water bottles filled to precisely the same levels with three different colored fluids. He keeps them at even levels throughout the day, even as the level diminishes. It’s really creepy. But I digress.
I had a boyfriend who had this really strange huff-and-puff thing. It was like an exhaled sniff. That’s the kind of noise it made. It was quiet, but regular. Every so often, here comes the puffing. Like he had a tickle in his noise and needed to gently blow it out.
I hated him when he did that. Gave him dirty looks when he couldn’t see me.
So, back to the radio thing. This is a situation that threatens my very ability to learn on the road. I’ve never listened to books on “tape,” but I wonder if that would be a problem, too. I’d get really absorbed in a book and then all of a sudden I’d have to stop listening to it and never know the end of the story because somebody was tonguing it too much. It’s like microphone porn or something. There’s no cure for this affliction. So I walk through the world with this aversion to mouth noise and hope nobody chomps gum in my ear on a conference call.
That’s meltdown level mouth noise.