I have complained about loud, grating music in stores before, but recently I decided it was time to pitch a fit.

In the past, I have turned around at the door and chosen not to enter a store that is playing loud, annoying music. Or, if I decide I can stand it, I might ask in a friendly, upbeat tone, “How do you stand this music all day long?”

And the responses are varied: “I hate it. I have a headache at the end of the day.” Or “We don’t have any choice, corporate chooses the music.” Or, “I don’t listen to it. I tune it out,” (which cognitive science tells us we don’t really do — it is still in our brains claiming our attention, distracting us from our task).

On this day, when I abandoned my calm demeanor and purposely pitched a fit, I started out reasonably. I said to the manager of the busy, crowded store that I thought the music was too loud. I asked, rather loudly, “What do you think?”

He agreed very quickly. “Oh, yes ma’am. I’m fixin’ to turn it down.”

But he didn’t. He was patronizing me. I came back to the front of the store later and said, “I still think the music is too loud...,” but before I could go any further, he said, “Oh I got too busy, let me go turn it down.” But he took the next customer and the next customer and failed to call up any of the clerks who were putting up stock in the aisles.

I try to be nice, but I thought on this day that it might be more effective if I expressed my real feelings. What I wanted to do was tear my hair and scream, “Stop the music! It is driving me crazy! I need quiet to shop.”

But I waited until the front of the store was empty except for me and the poor little manager. I put my hands over my ears, started shaking my head like a dog, and began a low, keening sound. The man said again, “Let me go turn the music down.” And he did.

I wasn’t really satisfied. For the serious spending of money, I want no distractions, no music at all.

Now, you may have seen me dancing to some ’60s tune while shopping in Ingles. I admit that early rock music makes my toes tap, but eventually, I abandon my dance and try to concentrate on my list.

Music is very taste specific as are books and movies and cars and perfumes. There is no one-size-fits-all. What I like may be anathema to many others. I know that stores try to use music to draw customers in. Apparently, they don’t want my money. I am not the right demographic for their products, so they write me off and run me out.

And, am I the only person in Jackson who actually listens to the words? Who cringes while some guy grunts and explains what he wants from some girl in colorful metaphoric detail? You can listen to whatever music you love, but why do I have to listen to it as well?

In doctors’ offices, the blaring TV is annoying, but it has its uses. I don’t have to listen to coughs and groans and gory descriptions of blood and bowels which people are willing to reveal in their distress and in the quiet smallness of a waiting room. At least if the television is going, I don’t get sucked into arguments about the state of the local school system, the evils of a certain political party, or the conspiracy against personal freedoms. I don’t like the blaring TV. I don’t usually like the channel, but it is the lesser of two evils.

My concern is not just that we are being manipulated by greedy marketers who have “proved” that music makes people buy more stuff, that playing music helps people focus and surrounds them in a cocoon of purchasing attention. My concern is that we shrug the noise away and don’t complain. And our minds and tempers suffer for it.

If you think the music doesn’t bother you, I am glad. If you never shop and have everything delivered, I am glad. But if you find yourself clenching your shoulders and covering your ears and wanting to scream — “Please Be Quiet for a Minute” — then may I suggest that you have a conversation with a manager and softly register your complaint, before you are driven to pitch a screaming fit like I did.

Cheryl Hilderbrand is a Jackson writer and educator. Email her at cmhild@bellsouth.net.

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