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"Shave and a Haircut" ... (heavy sigh)

What I suffer from is commonly referred to as earworm. Years ago, we just called it “a song I can’t get out of my head.”

“Earworm” is certainly a more efficient and descriptive name, but I don’t like it. It just doesn’t sit well in my ears and my brain (much like actual earworms for most people).

Ironically, I don’t usually mind earworms and generally have one – and sometimes more in alternating fashion – playing in my head at any given moment. Sometimes, they’re songs I like or grew up with; other times a jingle I heard from a local furniture company or car dealership (which are often so bad they’re entertaining). Often, it’s a song I just heard for the first time.

Why share this? Well, my current earworm has been with me for four weeks, to the point where it’s starting to irritate even me, which is a feat in and of itself. It’s a song I like – one that caught my ear the first time I heard it – and now, it’s attached itself to me in a way no other aural sensation has, at least that I can remember.

I’ve never stepped into a lake and emerged with a group of leeches clinging to my leg, but I believe the feeling one gets from that experience is like what my mind is going through now with this song.

It seeps in – or more accurately, oozes out – and attaches itself to me every time my brain has a break in the day, a chance to breathe or a moment to spare. In fact, it’s knocking on my brain’s door right now, refusing to leave until I agree to let it in “for just a minute. Then, I’ll go away. I promise!”

Thing is, this earworm is a liar and a manipulator, and it’s selfish. It has played this dirty trick too many times, preying on my love for the song, knowing if it persists, I’ll give in. Yet, I can’t trust it. I must understand that it doesn’t care about me, it only wants to take, take, take, and if I continue to allow – enable – its behavior, it will never leave.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not worried about any long-term damage I might suffer if it doesn’t go away. What I’m worried about is all the other earworms I’m missing out on; the disco songs, the game show themes, the sitcom intros, and all those awful, beautiful, out-of-tune, corny, wonderful local advertising jingles.

I love all those tunes, melodies and songs, and frankly, I need them. They make me smile, and in some odd way, they fuel my mind in a way that other things don’t or can’t. I can’t explain it, but earworms are more than a diversions, distractions or simple annoyances to me. Instead, they seem, on some strange level, to spark my creativity.

Now, I could list some classic earworms, but then I’d likely trigger your brain, and I assume you – like most living, breathing humans –don’t like or invite earworms the way I do. But now, even for me, this is starting to become a problem.

I mean, even if this issue doesn’t severely inhibit my creativity in the short term, at very least, I’m worried I’ll start to dislike the song that’s been crawling around in my head for the past month … and I don’t want to remove that song from my life’s playlist.

I just need it to give me a little space … and time. And if it does, I’m sure we can work out a decent future together.

Now, like hiccups, earworms have “remedies.” The most common of which I’m aware (the one my wife, Joanie, told me about) is this: when you really need to flush an earworm, when it pops into your brain, just hum the melody to “Shave and a haircut, two bits” and it’ll go away.

(For the growing number of folks – mostly younger – who don’t know what “Shave and a haircut, two bits” sounds like, I wish I could hum it to you now, but you’ll just have to google it for yourself … or ask someone who looks old enough to know it and have them sing it to you.)

But much like drinking 10 gulps of water and holding my breath for 10 seconds has never alleviated a case of hiccups for me, this remedy didn’t work. To add insult to injury, whenever I have tried it, “Shave and a haircut, two bits” turns into an earworm for me, which is much more annoying than the song I’m trying to flush.

So, I dug deeper (sort of), and here are the top three remedies I found from what I gather are undeniably credible scientific sources (because I used Google):

1. Listen to the tune all the way through. Since earworms are usually only a fragment of music, playing the tune all the way through can help break the loop. (Sounds reasonable.)

2. Replace it with another piece of music. (Interesting concept.)

3. Chew gum! (‘Scuse me?)

Here’s a recap. Remedy 1 simply nailed the earworm tighter onto my brain. Remedy 2 successfully added a second earworm to the playlist, and Remedy 3 is obviously just a way for the chewing gum lobby to get more people to use their product and boost industry sales. And simply because it was written with an exclamation point in the document I read, I found it to lose much of its credibility.

(In reality, the gum chewing remedy did have a clinical rationale, but I lost interest and stopped reading. Attention span has never been a strong suit for me.)

So, what to do? I guess I’ll just let time be my remedy, hoping the song just fades out over time. Maybe I should give Joanie’s solution another try, since she claims it works for her.

Or maybe I’ll just start chewing gum.

© 2022 David R. Haznaw

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