Bagpipes. If any musical instrument can be called an invention of Satan, it’s the bagpipe. It wouldn’t be so bad if bagpipes were confined to the Scottish Highlands, where the quaintness factor makes them bearable and tourists are disappointed if they don’t come across at least one piper along the way. But, for some reason, every parade in New York City and every St. Patrick’s Day event has to have its share of Irish bagpipers. The sound of this diabolical wind machine, which is something like the noise made by a colony of tomcats trying to mate with one female, winds its way up the auditory nerve and then proceeds to wiggle through the entire body, turning the listener into a mass of involuntary twitches. In addition to this, bagpipes are tuned to a “natural” scale. This means that they always sound off-pitch, even when they aren’t.
To add a visual touch to the auditory mess, imagine the sight of a group of middle-aged, paunchy men wearing green kilts, and you have the complete picture.
I now apologize to any readers who are or have been bagpipe players or whose fathers, brothers, other male relatives or friends are or were bagpipe players. Please don’t hurt me. I have a cat who depends on me to support her.
The Mister Softee Ice Cream Truck Song. While we’re on the subject of torturous musical noises, there is the greatest earworm of all time: the tinkling little tune that every Mr. Softee ice cream truck plays while prowling the streets of the five boroughs of New York City every summer. Ice cream trucks move very slowly, and the Mr. Softee trucks play that maddening tune over and over and over. They are only supposed to play it when they are moving, not when they are parked, but a lot of drivers conveniently “forget” this law. It is a sure sign of summer in this city when you can’t get The Mr. Softee Song out of your brain, even if you never buy the stuff.
Would you believe that thing even has words! You can find them here: The World’s Most Annoying Jingle
Jackhammers. Speaking of maddening sounds from the streets, mornings are often heralded by the noise of a pneumatic drill spewing its machine-gun din from some work site outside. Sometimes this happens on a Saturday morning, when you’re trying to sleep late. Stuffing earplugs into your ears doesn’t help, because not only can jackhammers cut through anything, they can also be felt. It’s hard to sleep when your bed is being shaken by a minor earthquake caused by a machine that can blast through concrete and rock blasting through concrete and rock right under your window. When the infernal noise stops, you breathe deeply and settle into your pillows once more, only to have it start up again thirty seconds later, louder than ever. At that point you sit up in bed and wonder how much it would cost to commute from Bora Bora.
Guys who sit on the subway with their legs spread, taking up two seats. Okay, all you guys who do this, listen up. We women subway riders have four little words for you: “It isn’t that big!” End of discussion.
Shredding. This is the noisiest, most repetitive and most boring job in the office. Enough said.
Having to answer my office phone one minute before closing time. Nowadays, not every office closes at 5:00, but some still do. The ones that don’t close at 5:00 often close at 6:00. A person who calls any office just before closing time is lucky that the poor office slob who is being held back from the daily escape from cubicle prison does not have the capacity to reach through the phone lines and strangle the person on the other end. If that were possible, there would be a lot of unsolved murders at rush hour time.