Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Whistle while you work

My office can only be entered by going through a main reception area and a small work/copy room. In a way, my office is part of the main office for my department. It doesn't have a separate door that opens onto a hallway.

That may be why I rarely play music while I work. If I'm in the office on a holiday or when there are very few other people around, I'll fire up the iPod on the computer speakers. If I need to watch a YouTube video, I'll stick headphones into the computer. But generally I work in silence. It rarely occurs to me to listen to music. I work with one ear cocked to the murmur of conversation outside my door, from staff to students to other faculty coming in and out, faxing things, using the copier, asking questions, getting their mail.

There's something private -- or maybe the word is "indulgent" -- about having a soundtrack for one's work. In an office setting, knocking on the door or walking into the room and having to pause while the person turns down the volume or takes out the earbuds, gives me the feeling of having intruded on a personal moment.

Worse, though, is being intruded upon. Invariably when I've put my earbuds on to listen to a podcast or hear the sound to a video, someone pokes their head through my door and asks me a question. Sitting with my back to them, facing the computer screen, it's not immediately obvious to my visitor that I'm in a different sonic landscape. I have to click pause and pull out the earbuds before turning around to ask them to repeat themselves, a process that takes a few seconds. In that time it's become clear that they've mistaken my availability, and there's an embarrassed moment as they apologize, and as I assume the attitude that I was perfectly justified to be watching that Lady Gaga video. (Seriously, it was for a discussion about Nietzsche.)

My work soundtrack is work itself, and that sets me apart, I imagine, from my A.V. Club colleagues. What about you?


Eric Grubbs said...

Since I do three reports for a "lite rock" station at 5am, I keep the station on the whole way through rush hour. The station just flipped to all Christmas music, but I didn't mind, nor did the producer who sits next to me.

However, since I don't do traffic for any other stations after rush hour, I listen to the new NPR music station that just started last week. Prior to that, I'd listen to Pandora.

Ali said...

One ear bud in, one out. Straddling sonic landscapes.