B.A.L.L.S.: Boom boom tunes

Bitching about Life in London and Society is a weekly column that attempts to delve into the smaller irritations in our society.

Remember those dances that you might have participated in at a wedding, or graduation, or bar mitzvah? That dance where participants form two lines, one facing the other. All the guys stand in one line and all the gals stand in the other. The couple at the far end of the line are instructed to dance between the lines, twirl, bump hips and do that John Travolta disco arm in the air pointing thing and then attempt to do the splits as the people forming the aisle shuffle, gyrate and clap. Remember that? It was usually followed up by a rousing Hokey Pokey, where it ends with Grandma having her garter pulled off. Did we go to the same dance?

Those times sucked, but we did what we did by choice. Kind of.

Now we find the same awkward setup in the halls of our college and abroad: people milling about on both sides of the hall, looking cool and slowly head bobbing to Ludacris, or Three 6 Mafia, or Dexys Midnight Runners, and you are forced to walk through their midst's. Instead of the splits and that Saturday Night Fever finger grinder, you try your best not to walk to the beat of the music. Some sort of stuffy, anti-dance shuffle that feels both awkward and oddly alluring at the same time. I wonder if there is a word for that?

That is where is starts.

I have decided on three of the main irritations caused by the imposition of music: those that BOOM BOOM BOOM out of their cars, the drunk roommate that comes home after the bar and cranks the tunes, and the all purpose bad choice in music guy, you know the one, that guy that tucks in his sweater and swears that Poland is the home of rock and roll.

I have reconsidered, and will focus on the two main irritations caused by the imposition of music.


Hear me? Do you hear me? Do you notice me? I exist, right? I offend you, right? Therefore I Am.

You can feel the BOOM BOOM BOOMer a block before they pull up beside you. It starts with a slight tickle at the base of your spine and ends with a white-knuckled apprehension that one would feel if a bunch of bats just swooped into your car. You hazard a glance through his smoky tinted window to see a slow head bob, sunglasses and a self-satisfied smirk that comes and goes with the slow sway of a pair of garters hanging from his mirror. I wonder if Grandma misses those?

One may conclude that the automobile, and the ensuing BOOM BOOM BOOM is an extension of the addled driver. This is a fine line though: who hasn't cranked the tunes in their car? I experimented with this last week: I was driving with my 13-year-old daughter and decided to crank whatever song came on the radio next. I happened to be listening to CBC, so my experiment might have been flawed from the beginning. The song that came on was a rousing, boppy African tune that repeated the chorus, “Happy, Happy Africa.” Instead of projecting angst and a bass induced apprehension, I got smiles and a very embarrassed 13-year-old. Cranking happy music didn't evoke the same trepidation it seems. So wherein lays the angst? I think it resides in the persona of the individual. The negative energy, the droopy pants, fake gold necklace, engraved haircut and tiny designer sneakers.

One may draw the conclusion that when one does not have a firm grip on a healthy self-identity, one forges an identity and sense of belonging by shocking and assaulting acceptable social standards. I ruminated on this in my article on those that take up two seats on a busy bus a few issues back.

The Music Cranker:
Do you have a tall skinny roommate with long black hair that looks like Kim Mitchell of old? Does he drink Export by the case, quote Monty Python and smoke pouched tobacco ‘cause it's “cheaper?” Does he stumble his way home at 3 a.m. after mumbling away the night in a loud bar? You know those guys: you are in a bar where all you can hear are your own thoughts - barely, and your buddy is animatedly engaged in a discussion with you about something? Probably politics or religion, “Um, I can't hear you,” you think to yourself, “but something is pissing you off! And please stop spitting on me.”

It doesn't matter if it's a Saturday night, or a Monday, they come home, roll a smoke and CRANK the tunes. There could be 20 people in the room, or just you in bed sleeping, no matter. WHAM, the windows rattle, your heart slips into that, “Oh man, here we go again” mode, and the night turns to day. The kind of loud that even earplugs or pillows over the head can't dissipate. The kind of loud that becomes you.

This roommate is generally a happy guy by nature, a hard worker, and friendly. These guys should come with a label, “Instant asshole, please add booze.”

As opposed to the projected angst of the BOOM BOOM BOOMer, these guys are just thoughtless, absorbed in the frustrations of a grumpy binge, a grumpy life and a lack of self-worth. A person that seethes inside like an Alka Seltzer waiting for a glass of liquid.

My Take:
Who hasn't cranked the tunes? Or gone to a club or concert? Sometimes one just needs to be inundated with a sensory overload. It makes us smile, it makes us dance, it makes us forget.

Perhaps, for most of us, music is not used as an extension of ourselves, but as a companion to who we already are. We, perhaps, are more comfortable with ourselves, and don't need this metaphorical suit of armor. Well, not as often anyway.

Never trust a guy that tucks in his sweater.

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