I Don’t Dig Earworms

5 Mar

Some melodies are hard to shake. They can lodge in your brain as relentlessly as the accelerator on a Toyota. We’ve all experienced it—that song you just can’t stop singing.

The term for a song stuck in your head, strangely enough, is “earworm.”  It’s the reason you can remember the lyrics to the Kit Kat candy bar jingle but can’t remember the title of the last book you read. It’s the reason you keep singing “Who Let the Dogs Out” even though you own a cat. And it’s the reason you keep going back to Chili’s for baby back ribs.

Throughout life I’ve suffered earworms from hearing anything remotely musical, whether a song on TV, lyrics on the radio or the sound of a toilet flushing. My earworms recently got so bad that my husband and kids secretly placed bets to see how long it would take me to start humming after they whistled the first line of a song. That’s when I decided to see a shrink.

“So, what brings you here today?” Dr. P. asked.

“How Much is That Doggy in the Window?” I answered.

“Excuse me?”

“How Much is That Doggy in the Window?” I repeated.

“I don’t understand.”

“The song. It’s stuck in constant rewind in my head and I can’t get it out.”

“I see. How long has it been stuck?”

“Since early November.”

“So, a week?”

“Of 2009.”

“I see. How does that make you feel?”

“Like I want a frontal lobotomy.”

“I see. Tell me about it.”

“I want someone to take a scalpel and…”

“I meant, what causes it.”

I explained to Dr. P. that anything could trigger it, like a word, a sound, or my husband snoring.

She mentioned something about mental pathways, which I couldn’t follow because her words competed in my brain with, “ the one with the waggley tail…”

She told me that I had earworms, which she said are sometimes associated with obsessive-compulsive behavior. Then she asked me a bunch of questions like whether I was preoccupied with details, rules, lists and organization, and whether I was a perfectionist. I wasn’t sure where she was going with all this obsessive-compulsive disorder stuff but told her to ask me again in order of importance and to annunciate better next time.

She moved on to explain that 98% of the population has been afflicted with an earworm at some time or another and that those most susceptible are women, musicians, the worry prone and parrots. I found this news normalizing since statistically it meant that more people experience earworms than dandruff.

She also said that some people suffer a more serious affliction called musical hallucinations where they actually hear music that is not playing. Just then I heard a Mariachi band, which caused me to panic.

“Don’t worry, you’re not hallucinating,” she assured me. “That’s my cell phone going off. Sorry about that.”

The earworm diagnosis helped me understand my problem and I left her office feeling much better. I had accidentally left my sweater behind so I ran back to retrieve it. I didn’t see Dr. P. anywhere but I heard music coming from the bathroom.  Curious, I cupped my ear to the door. I’m pretty certain it wasn’t just the toilet flushing but Dr. P. singing, “How Much is That Doggy in the Window,”— over and over again.

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24 Responses to “I Don’t Dig Earworms”

  1. sportsattitudes March 5, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    I always wondered how professionals who handle OCD patients keep from getting compulsive themselves. After listening to the myriad of potential behaviors folks get stuck in, the sheer mention of some of them could surely trigger similar feelings and actions. The fact I am now humming “How Much Is That Doggy In The Window”…totally my choice.

  2. crubin March 5, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    Now I know what to call my constant mental rehashing of the Star War’s theme song that comes compliments of my middle schooler’s necessary, but admittedly agonizing, trombone practice. Day. After day. After day.

    Thanks for giving a name to my pain. 🙂

  3. Main Street Musings Blog March 5, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    I feel your pain!

  4. nursemommylaughs March 5, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

    I am with you on this one. Songs have been stuck in my blooming head for decades; and thanks now for switching my gears to one involving caged animals! I wish I knew your cell, so I could leave you a couple worms to enjoy! 😉 Loved this one and your docs cell phone!

  5. Paprika Furstenburg March 6, 2012 at 12:23 am #

    So many funny line in this one, but “but just then I hear a Mariachi band…” was my favorite. I read this earlier this morning and I’d like to thank you for the earworm you deposited in my brain. I spent the whole day rotating through the Chili’s commercial, Kit Kat jingle and Who Let the Dogs Out. Thankfully the doggy in the window didn’t stick.

  6. earthriderjudyberman March 6, 2012 at 1:22 am #

    Ah … shades of “It’s a Small World After All …. ” I feel your pain. Great post. 😉

  7. Audubon Ron March 6, 2012 at 2:19 am #

    Light the corners of my mind
    Misty watercolor memories
    Of the way we were…

  8. Sam Flowers March 6, 2012 at 3:17 am #

    Fantastically funny and cleverly written post.

    It reminded me of the short-lived TV show Eli Stone where the eponymous lead character played by Jonny Lee Miller had both aural and visual hallucinations of George Michael. Though not reassuringly this was because he had a brain aneurysm!

    • Main Street Musings Blog March 6, 2012 at 11:47 am #

      Thanks for the positive feedback, Sam. If I experience hallucinations of George Michael, now I’ll know to worry.

  9. Dawn@LightenUp! March 7, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

    I want my baby backk baby back….
    I love the nightlife, Lisa. I got to boogie!!

  10. prachi jain March 9, 2012 at 2:39 am #

    “It’s a small world after all . . . it’s a small . . . after all”

    I kept singing it at Disneyland until my kids got tired of it.

  11. Sherry Stanfa-Stanley March 9, 2012 at 3:37 am #

    This was a hoot!

    Which reminds me of an owl.

    Which reminds me of birds.

    Which reminds me of the song “Rockin’ Robin,” as performed by the late Michael Jackson.

    Which reminds me of his other famous animal-centered song, “Ben,” which is a terrific tune, but is actually about a man-eating rat and is really, really horrific.

    And now, I’ll be hearing that in my head for days, while it conjures up all sorts of bloody images.

    So, yeah, thanks for that ear worm.

  12. thelaughingmom March 10, 2012 at 4:27 am #

    I totally have those. I’ve always wondered if they were OCD-related and now I know. Just glad they are not the fuzzy kind.

    • Main Street Musings Blog March 10, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

      “I feel GLAD when you’re glad . . .I can’t smile without you . . .” – Barry Manilow

  13. simonandfinn March 12, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    Ok that was an awesome post!! Well written, funny, all good things. Thanks!

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