This week’s question submitted by an unwitting participant comes from Elsa (@prometheusish) on Twitter, who asks “#dearhankandjohn my roommate has been listening for the same album on repeat for the last 24 h. i think I might go insane. what should i do?”
Twitter grammar aside (I’ve been told I am the only person this side of an English linguistics PhD who still cares about such things) I think Elsa has touched on what is, unfortunately, both a serious and common problem. In a time before personal mp3 players, when walls were thin and doors were forbidden to close, my mom would go into iTunes and pump out “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban ad infinitum while she cooked or folded laundry. When my brother wanted to get swole with his hand weights in his bedroom, his torture of choice was the N*SYNC No Strings Attached. In more recent days, my husband has gotten into weird moods where he plays “Mad World” over and over again while working on some (surely very depressing) computer code.
We can all think of a time when we’ve lost a loved one to the curse of the “Repeat One” button. And I think, if we’re honest, we can probably think of times when we have lost ourselves down the rabbit hole of one song or the other and it takes sheer will and thinly veiled threats to pull us up and out again.
When I think back to the misguided song choices of my family, I’m fairly certain there was no way to save them from themselves. The lightbulb has to really want to change, as they say, and when someone is in that deep, all we can do is pray that they are safe and that some day they’ll come back to us. In the case of my poor husband, tortured soul that he is, my only recourse to preserve my own sanity is to hand him headphones and give him a pleading look until his aching, shattered heart breaks just enough more to convince him to use them.
When my own binge-listening cravings strike, headphones are how I practice musical selflessness. I have about four pairs on my desk right now, in varying states of functionability. It’s just common courtesy, especially if you’re going through a show-tunes-from-the-70s phase.
So that’s my advice to you, Elsa. The next time your roommate is painfully singing along to whatever you kids listen to these days, hand them a pair of headphones and raise one eyebrow in that vaguely pedantic way. And if you’re not the confrontational type (and I think if you’re asking for help with this from two famous podcasters and other internet advice scavengers, you’re probably not) then maybe buy them a nice set of new headphones and place them on top of their computer in a sort of “I like you, but not so much right now” gesture.