The next time you’re at the Lake Houston Y, you’ll know exactly who I am. I’m the only one without those plugs in my ears.

Looking for me in a sea of people at the mall? I’m the one without ear plugs.

How about Starbucks? Yes, I love my Starbucks. I’m the one focused on my laptop – just like I am at this very moment as I type these profound words. I’m the only one without ear plugs.

I’m not anti-ear plugs. Some of my best friends – okay, all my friends – are plugged in.

And I’m not anti-music. At home, our computer is plugged in to WQXR. That’s a New York classical station I found on the internet. I’ve learned that I’m more creative when Vivaldi and Haydn are in my background. But in my ears? I don’t think so.

I remember jogging down 75th Street in the Waldo area of Kansas City many, many years ago. The trend then was a bulky transistor radio and a plastic plug that kept falling out of my ear.

I tried, but between bouncing on the cement with that heavy radio and the irritating ear plug and trying to pace myself to the music, I got all confused.

I was not a pretty sight running past that wonderful bakery in Waldo with all those fresh donut smells spilling out onto the street.

I chunked the radio.  

I understand trying to block out noise when you’re at your laptop. If you’re in a Starbucks or a Panera – or even the Lone Star-Kingwood library – you can get pretty distracted while you’re trying to answer emails, post bills or think up profound words for your column.

There’s lots of research proving that “noise” can get your creative juices flowing. Those scholars point to the people who create video games and use music to help gamers concentrate. Looking for some music to create by? Researchers say the “SimCity” soundtrack is best because it was designed to be enjoyable but subdued enough not to “… zap your focus from playing the game.”

I visited a friend’s open-concept office recently and was surprised to see everybody – EVERYBODY – tethered to their ear plugs. Doesn’t that cancel out the whole idea of collaborating with your coworkers when you’re zoning out with an earful of the “SimCity” soundtrack or Barry Manilow or whatever you’re zoning out to?

On the other hand, who wants to get an earful of your office mate arguing with the school nurse that a few sniffles doesn’t require them to leave work and pick up the offspring?

I’m one of the lucky ones. Somehow, through all my years of working shoulder-to-shoulder with other reporters in a huge room, or in an allegedly soundproof cubicle in the state office building, I could block out everything around me.

Didn’t hear a thing. Didn’t notice a thing.

One time I was focused on getting my newsletter out. I looked up. There was nobody around. Everything was quiet – except for an irritating buzzer signaling a bomb threat. I was officed with probably 200 other health department workers on the third floor of the state office building. They all left. Nobody told me. I never noticed.

Nope, I don’t need my phone and earplugs to zone out. My brain zones me out without any exterior support.

Are you tethered to ear phones? Tell Tom, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Tom Broad
Author: Tom BroadEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Columnist
Besides being a proud graduate of The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and, therefore, a Cornhusker, I am retired from Memorial Hermann. I am a correspondent and columnist for Lake Houston's hometown paper, The Tribune, as well as a director of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Corporation, a member of the board of the Humble Area Assistance Ministries, and Volunteer Extraordinaire for the Lake Houston Area Chamber.

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