Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A First World Solution to a First World Problem

What do you do on your breaks at work-- if you go out to work, and if you get breaks?

I read. It's my prime reading time, other than my bus journeys.

I read in the staff room, over a cup of tea. But herein lies the problem.

Often enough the staff room is full of other people reading, or listening to something through headphones, or dozing. But at least half the time there are people chatting. And the worst part of the thing is that it's always one or two conversations, rather than a room full of chatter.

I can read quite happily in a room full of conversation-- in fact, the hum of voices in the air is my favourite noise in the whole world. But I find it impossible to concentrate with one conversation going on beside me, or two. Fifty conversations cancel each other, but I can't block out a single conversation.

I could take my cup of tea outside the library, true. I've done that before. I've put tea in a paper cup and brought it into the adjoining arts block, where there's usually somewhere to sit.

But I am a tea fanatic and tea from a paper cup is an abomination. I can't tell the difference between one wine and another, but tea is another matter entirely.

Take it in a proper cup? The powers that be do not look kindly on staff members carrying full cups of tea around the library. Even when it's a lidded paper cup, we are meant to be discreet about it, since students aren't allowed tea or coffee and it sets a bad example.

Take it out in a canteen (or a thermos flask, as Americans say) and pour it into a proper cup outside? Then it tastes metallic and horrible.

OK, so going out is not an option. So why not just stay in and put in ear-plugs? The student's union shop below the library does sell ear-plugs. My office mate gave me some one time. They worked pretty well. However, they are a euro a pop. Even if they were cheaper I couldn't afford them, as I have no money.

This dilemma has dogged me for a long time-- rather like the Pontine marshes or Zeno's arrow. However, today I found the answer!

The White Noise app, which I installed on my smartphone-- for free!

Using this app, you can block out surrounding babble with a range of different noises. A cat purring, crickets chirping, traffic rumbling, water flowing...and my favourite, a crowded room full of people who are doubtless repeating the word "rhubarb" incessantly!

Thank you, technology! You have your uses!

Keep telling everybody about your baby's food preferences, sweetheart! Keep kvetching about that other driver, dude! I CAN'T HEAR YOU!

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