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Wake Me Up ... Wait, I'm Not Dreaming This

“Wake me up, before you go-go, don’t leave me hangin’ on like a yo-yo … ”

I’m not sure why or how, but it happened.

“Wake me up, before you go-go, ‘cuz I’m not plannin’ on goin’ solo … ”

It’s a common thing, generally benign by clinical standards, but that doesn’t lessen its impact (i.e., it can be super annoying).

“Wake me up before you go-go, take me dancin’ tonight …”

And, a half-hour after it started, it was still with us.

It’s happened to you (maybe it’s happening right now), and when it does, getting rid of it can be tougher than getting a raccoon out of your attic or that last little piece of dog poop out of the tread of your tennis shoe after you step in it while mowing the lawn.

Joan and I had an earworm. If you’re not familiar with the term, it also goes by the following aliases: brainworm, sticky music, stuck song syndrome, or for you clinical types, Involuntary Musical Imagery (which sounds like the name of a startup company).

It’s defined (by the first thing I saw when I Googled it this morning) as “a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person’s mind after it is no longer playing.”

Over the years, I’ve likely had millions of earworms, for the simple fact that there are few times during the day when I don’t have a tune (catchy or otherwise) inhabiting my brain at levels ranging from “floating harmlessly around, looking for a place to land” to “welding itself directly to my consciousness.”

In other words, I’m used to the phenomenon and luckily (for me, anyway), I’ve made it part of my day (like breathing, blinking or hitting my head on something because I move too fast and don’t always pay attention to where I’m going).

Anyway, back to the latest song (or “worm”) in question:

“Wake me up, before you go-go, don’t leave me hangin’ on like a yo-yo … ”

It afflicted both Joan and me recently after we’d returned home after running errands.

“Wake me up, before you go-go, ‘cuz I’m not plannin’ on goin’ solo … ”

And, as previous stated, a half-hour after it started, it was still with us.

“Wake me up before you go-go, take me dancin’ tonight …”

I know this to be true because a half-hour after we got home, I sang the previous lyric out loud to myself, prompting Joan to yell (from two rooms away), “That’s exactly where I was in the song!”

Joan, like most well-adjusted, mature adults, does not invite or enjoy earworms, which makes it really difficult (among other reasons) to live with me because I neither dislike them nor keep them to myself.

To the contrary, I not only accept earworms as part of my life (and along with toast, orange juice and a bowl of Cheerio’s, part of a well-balanced breakfast), I like to sing them until I’m reminded – sometimes rather forcefully – that not everyone shares my love of uninvited music setting up shop in the brain.

“Wake me up, before you go-go, ‘cuz I’m not plannin’ on goin’ solo …”

“OK, that’s enough. Shut it down.” Generally, that’s all Joan has to say to get me to take my “outside” George Michael (or John Denver, Jewel, Bruno Mars or Ozzie Osborne, to name a few) inside to play.

Joan says she has a foolproof method for getting rid of earworms, and that is to think of a melody that has “finality” to it; in other words, it’s the end of a song or passage that tells the brain, “Show’s over. We’re closing up shop. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

Specifically fore her, it’s the melody to “Shave and a haircut … two bits.” And it works for her, that is, until something (like the radio or TV) or someone (usually me), puts another (or worse, the same) melody back into her brain.

(When it comes to stuff like this – that is, creating and/or communicating annoying, useless sounds, ideas and actions – think of me as a carrier of the phenomenon, one who doesn’t suffer from it but can infect many, many others in a short period of time.)

Now, maybe you’re like me, and the “Shave and haircut … two bits” thing doesn’t work. Well, have no fear because in that same Google search from earlier, I also found some other remedies:

1. Listen to the entire song. (Sounds reasonable, but if it’s a song I don’t like, why would I do that?)

2. Listen to a “cure tune” (much like Joan’s remedy, and not to be confused with a “Cure” tune, like Lovesong or Pictures of You).

3. Distract yourself with something else (like yelling to your spouse from two rooms away to stop).

4. Chew gum. (Seriously? This just seems like the gum lobby – not to be confused with the gun lobby – is just trying to push more product. AND, if this were truly an effective remedy, everyone

we know would be chewing gum all the time.)

5. Leave it alone (which sounds about as easy as letting your baby cry him/herself back to sleep at 2:38 a.m.).

I can’t vouch for – or refute – any of these (except for maybe the gum thing; it sounds like a scam), but maybe they work. In short, it doesn’t really matter to me, because I’m fine with my earworms, and routinely have three to five “on shuffle” at any given time of day.

And, if you’re like me (one of the “non-silent” minority of those who enjoy and sing their earworms), the choices cover a wide range of genres, tempos and generations

(i.e., Country Roads, If I Were A Rich Man, The Macarena, O Canada, a jingle for a local car dealership).

With a list like that (and mind you, that’s just a cross-section; I could go on), if I get sick of one of them, I simply replace it with another on the list, or like the other day, add a new one:

“Wake me up, before you go-go … take me dancin’ tonight …”

Joan’s still in bed, but I feel like she’s telepathically telling me to stop writing about this. Anyway, if you’re an earworm lover, celebrate it. And if you’re a hater, then I’m sorry I put that Wham song in your head today, but since it’s in there anyway, let’s start from the top …

“You do the jitterbug … You do the jitterbug …”

© 2020 David R. Haznaw

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