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Columnist, Sheila Moss, is humor writer from  Tennessee. She writes  a weekly human interest column about daily life and the funny things that happen to everyone.

   She has written for  the Daily News of Kingsport,   Griffin Journal, Oakridge Now, Atlanta Woman Magazine, Aberdeen Examiner, Angleton Advocate,  and Smyrna AM, a supplement of the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal. She has been published by Voyageur Press, McGraw Hill, and the good folks at Guidepost Books.  Her articles have appeared in numerous anthologies and other publications, both in print and online.

    She is a former board member and past  Editor of  the, website of  the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, the oldest and largest professional organization for columnists. She is the Web Editor of Southern
  and  a founder of the Southern Humorists writers' organization. She is writer, editor, and webmaster of

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White Noise...

 White Noise

Thanks to the new open office plan at our office, we have something new to gripe about besides each other. You see, experts have discovered that with an open office plan, you can not only see each other, you can also hear each other. What a surprise!

Experts came up with a way to overcome this little distraction. It's called "white noise." We are not exactly sure where it is coming from. For all we know space aliens may have brought it from another planet. It certainly sounds like something from out of this world.

All day long we are subjected to this whistling sound in the background that blurs out any other noise. No longer do hear our neighbor chattering on the phone, clicking the keyboard, or complaining about too much work.

Funny, most of us had never even heard of white noise and now we have it. It came with the modernization, like manna from heaven. We spend our time around the water cooler speculating on what the white noise sounds like. "It sounds like an air blower at high speed," says one person. "I think it is like being on an airplane," says another. "It sounds like what you hear in a seashell when you
listen for the sound of the ocean," says someone else. Of course, the bottom line is that it sounds like... well... white noise.

It seems people complain if the sound is loud, so it starts out low and day by day the volume increases until it reaches the highest level. The theory is that if it is gradual enough, no one will notice. It is similar to the frog story. If you put a frog in water and gradually increase the temperature, you can bring it to boiling without killing the frog. I don't know if that is true, but I do know that we are boiling in white noise.

When people talk to me, I can see their lips moving, but I can't hear what they are saying. "Huh?" It is like working in a ticket office where you are separated from the rest of the world by an invisible pane of glass, or in a filling station in a bad neighborhood with bullet-proof glass to keep the bad guys out.

The white noise is not supposed to be harmful in any way. It is supposed to reduce stress and help workers avoid distractions and be more productive. We suspect it might be a sinister plot to control our brains and are considering getting tin-foil hats to keep the white noise waves from controlling us.

Noise is not considered noise pollution until it reaches a certain level where noise is more than merely annoying and actually harmful to your health, like the noise from airplanes, jack hammers, fireworks, or your kids playing rock music. The idea is that it should be loud enough to "mask" other sounds without being loud enough to create a noise distraction of its own.

When you search for information on the internet, most of the results are about how to make white noise, not how to deal with it. People use it in the nursery to help fussy babies sleep and it actually works. Now I know why I am so sleepy lately. We are supposed to be more productive, but instead we are yawning and finding it difficult to stay awake in our glass cocoons with the soothing sound surrounding us.

As I understand it, the open office plan is intended to improve communication. White noise is intended to mask the excessive noise from our improved communication. But, everyone just kicks it up a notch to be heard over the white noise. It seems self-defeating to me, but obviously I am out of touch with modernization.

As far as I'm concerned, the best color noise of all is still the old-fashioned sound of silence.

Copyright 2013 Sheila Moss

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