Researchers and public health types are paying a growing amount of attention
to pollution caused not by automobiles, factories and oil tankers, but by noise. Our ears, the theory goes, are so inundated
with superfluous sound our hearing -- and our sanity -- may well be in peril.
I'm inclined to agree.
Nowhere has this extraneous clamour
become more pronounced than in local shopping malls and grocery stores, even here in our comparatively culturally-subdued
At the risk of sounding like the grumpy old man I must be quickly becoming, is musical bombardment really a necessary
component of the shopping transaction? Are there really such music buffs parting with their hard-earned shekels that would
take their business elsewhere if their favourite boutique didn't have Jennifer Lopez as part of its ambience?
If the local
trendy teeny-bopper outfitters were the only culprits it would be simple enough to avoid those operations. But the torrent
of tunes isn't limited to those outfits specializing in teen outfits. It's permeated transactions of nearly every kind.
is a necessity that really cannot be escaped. That said, enticing shoppers with musical interludes between poultry and produce
sections is an unneeded distraction. Surely no consumers need to be serenaded by lonely, screaming divas lamenting latest
Which brings to mind the choice of music. The supermarket soundscape inevitably is cluttered by soft pop, music whose
principal function would seem to be to provide something to listen to while sticking one's head in the oven. Apart from inducing
dental cavities with saccharine lyrics, my newborn daughter is prone to fits of prolonged, tortured crying at the sound of
Celine Dion, a taste I didn't teach her but at which I certainly swell with pride.
One local supermarket almost had me as an immediately
loyal customer when on my first visit I was carried through the aisles on a wave of music-less silence. Alas, the sound system
must have been only temporarily out of commission, as I returned the following week to be aurally greeted by Cher.
is the merge of music assaulting the senses when sauntering through the mall. Like their grocery vending counterparts, mall
management has abandoned straight out elevator music in favour of the aforementioned sanguine schlock.
Coupled with this is the cacophony
arising at nearly every door to every store, whose proprietors assail potential purchasers with the type of neo-disco, thumping
electronic beat -- generally sans melody of any kind -- usually associated with all night raves. I rarely last more than a
few fleeting moments in any one establishment before fleeing into the acoustic arms of the soft-pop hell that is the thoroughfare.
Does Gap Kids really need to pound parents with pulsating beats while they look for tiny shoes for their toddlers?
A solid argument
could be made for loud music emanating from the music store, but even there the choice is nearly always booming bass at chest-
thumping volumes. By the time I track down the category I want the pounding in my head has caused me to forget what music
I was there to purchase in the first place.
Retailers take note: Not all spenders need the constant din of musical accompaniment. Some
of us just want to shop in peace.
- David Russell is a freelance writer and contributing editor at Suite101.com.