by cheri sabraw
I stood at the counter at Nordstrom Department Store, waiting to pay for two wallets I was buying for gifts.
In the background, digitized music pounded out a syncopated rhythm that was undeniably nothing recognizable.
It was…just…there…filling the space. A hollow uninteresting beat, some sucking crescendos, repetitive whistles and counter-whistles—in short, a perfect medley of nothing, which reminded me of the music played at Valley Vista Roller Rink at the heyday of my roller-skating days. Ah, yes the organ music which seemed to emanate from a real person sitting in tails, pounding on the pipes as I laced up my roller skates.
A stylish young Indian woman came to the same counter, waiting for service.
“I wonder what Nordstrom would sound like if the manager turned off the music?” I asked.
“ You don’t like music?” she asked with an incredulous flare. (Such a leap of thought reminded me of the miserable critical thinking skills that have been allowed to compost in high school government classes.)
“Oh, I love music; but I don’t care for a digitized robotic sound, if that’s what you meant. I miss the piano player, which Nordstrom scratched several years ago when its market research told the CEO that shoppers preferred the loud hip-hopping slop to Beethoven.
“How do you feel about the quiet?” I asked her.
“The quiet what?” she asked, pursing the space between her lovely heavy brows.
“Oh, the quiet store, the quiet car, the quiet bedroom, the quiet theater. You know, when no music permeates the background of everyday business and life? When our thoughts and buying decisions are left to the recesses of our interior selves instead of a frenetic pounding and pumping and squealing?”
“What are the recesses of our interior selves?” asked the Persian clerk.
“The places in our souls where there is room to imagine and create, small tunnels of perfect silence in which we can feel free to think under the influence of only ourselves.”
“I like background noise,” commented the Indian woman, edging her way into my place at the counter.
“Most Americans do,” I said.