But then there was "Alcohol," and this everyday kind of day became more than just trotting from office to office, samples in tow and message on mouth. Instead, I felt light. I felt that if I glanced in a mirror I’d see a face with an agreeable look blinking back at me—a someone who was having a pleasant day.
I found this to be strange. For I’m not one of those people whose mood sways with a song. In fact, I rarely listen to music. Though there are plenty of ditties I enjoy, I can go days without turning on a tune of any kind. I’m too egocentric for that, too fond of listening to my own thoughts to submit my head to someone else’s words, no matter how engaging. That and music inhibits my concentration. I can’t read with music playing. I can’t write while music plays—even minus libretto. The only things I can do well with background noise are my hair and makeup, driving, and design work. Some people, they live song to song. Me, I’m often apt to go soundless.
Today, however, when it came to the part of Talk of the Nation on NPR when listeners call in and I turn the radio off, rather than turning to a book or driving in silence, I found a CD and slid it into slot number four. One of those dusty CDs everyone seems to have—a mix from six years ago that’s been hiding behind a CD on atherothrombosis in the recesses of a glove box. Instead of a label, it had a surprise. I slid the thing in and after a twang or two Brad Paisley took on the persona of booze and told me its tale.
I don’t drink alcohol. I’ve never had a single sip of the stuff, but I know clever when I hear it, and "Alcohol" oozes wit. I listened to the song. It brought me a smile. And the smile never really left.
There I was, ten minutes later, thinking rather serious thoughts in an elevator while wearing a face that didn’t betray the weight of my musings. I attribute that to a song I haven’t listened to for years that has nothing to do with my personal experience.
It seems that this interaction with a song was built of bitsy anomalies.
When I do turn to songs for sound I don’t listen to country music; "Alcohol" is one of maybe 4 songs of the country genre in my limited library.
When desiring entertainment while driving, I listen to books or NPR. (I recognize that when I specify NPR rather than just denoting “the radio” I seep something smelling like pretention and look to be begging for a label of erudition—Oh, I’m so sophisticated! I’m so righteous! I partake of public radio!—but I specify because for years I’ve listened to absolutely no other radio. AM radio should come with a black box warning indicating the potential for homicidal thoughts, and I no longer comprehend the value of FM music stations.)
When I do allow a song to enter my psyche it doesn’t usually alter my disposition. That it did today I credit the fact that the music of my life isn’t music. When I do let some tunes in, they’re rare enough to have influence.
On a wholly dissimilar note, try this sometime: park yourself on a bench in the lobby of a medical office building. Sit there, tapping away at your computer, and glance up when you hear the elevator’s ding or the automatic doors slide open. Then guess who’s going to/coming from where.
• The well-muscled mister with a slight limp? Orthopedics—2nd floor.
• The man with a 5-year-old girl in tow? Pediatric neurology—3rd floor.
• The pretty twentysomething with a knee brace? Physical therapy, 2nd floor.
• The Hispanic family of five, including grandma? Family medicine, 1st floor.
• The elderly couple shuffling past? Oh, now that’s a hard one. 3rd floor for sure, but is it cardiology or neurology? We’ll never know.