Written by: Chris Morley
First, a difficult, if slightly cathartic confession.
I am a lapsed musician of sorts. I haven’t picked up a guitar in far too long where once it seemed natural to plug in and play. Even listening to music is now confined to short bursts in favour of extended periods of quiet.
The reason for this self-inflicted sonic solitude?
Noise of a different kind.
For you see, I am a member of a subdivision of the white collar workforce, at the mercy of occupational noise. If you can answer yes to any of the following questions as posed by the Health & Safety Executive, your collar being of a similar colour or even blue, you could be, too.
Is the noise intrusive–like a busy street, a vacuum cleaner or a crowded restaurant – for most of the working day?
Do you have to raise your voice to have a normal conversation when about 2 m apart for at least part of the day?
Do you use noisy powered tools or machinery for over half an hour a day?
Do you work in a noisy industry, eg construction, demolition or road repair; woodworking; plastics processing; engineering; textile manufacture; general fabrication; forging, pressing or stamping; paper or board making; canning or bottling; foundries? Are there noises because of impacts (eg hammering, drop forging, pneumatic impact tools etc), explosive sources such as cartridge-operated tools or detonators, or guns?
Do you have muffled hearing at the end of the day, even if it is better by the next morning?
Arguably equal to the indelible impact of such excessive noise is the drudgery of sitting behind the same desk taking calls from the same sort of person with the same sort of issue swearing blind they’re really not having a go at you while in the same breath proceeding to do almost exactly that.
Add to that the depressing realisation that the further noise generated by A. the varying acoustic qualities of the lines connecting you to Joe Public enabling them to air their grievance and vent their spleen and B. the need to often increase the volume in order to hear them doing so in the first place on account of the tangibly nearly deafening roar of who knows how many other people in the same position probably having a similar experience to yourself, which in itself leads nicely into the C. as outlined in my introduction, which served in part as motivation to write this, having felt the effects on myself and several colleagues.
Inasmuch as being on the other end of the line has somewhat dulled the giddy highs of any other kind of interloper visiting my earlobes–a sad concession indeed–I cannot help but return to The Dark Side Of The Moon, Roger Waters’ attempt to make sense of the human condition if such a bold presupposition can ever be justified (or would the attempt in itself send one mad?).
Before his latter years saw him beginning a worrying transformation into the sort of ranting elderly neighbour you’d probably draw the curtains to avoid lest he want to kick both you and any pets unfortunate enough to be found befouling his lawn or maybe even just because he could, 1973 found Waters penning the album that is quite possibly even now the definitive audio document of the struggle of anyone finding themselves in dissatisfactory union with the four walls of an office struggling to see daylight through horribly prescient and depressing blinds.
Don’t be afraid to care. A simple truth straight off the bat, but one so easy to ignore when your day consists of waking up wishing the alarm clock–in itself at times mentally a cacophony to rival the collage at the introduction of Time–would bugger off and leave you in peace as you try desperately to stop the sobering thought that you face seven-and-a-half hours making up the dull day, no option of frittering and wasting a single one on anything more pleasant than going to the toilet or eating lunch–though even the simple act of sharing time away from the desk with a colleague has lost something, anyone that you do sit with making little in the way of conversation, just a look rendering you aware of the inescapable fact they know your pain before talking shop resumes after a bout of small talk.
In those moments life does indeed feel long, ten minutes taking on the mantle of years passing as, hanging on in quiet desperation, you begin to wonder what exactly you did to deserve this.
Then, home, more often than not, cold and/or tired as that niggling headache grabs you, the great gig in the brain getting blown out of all proportion before anyone can so much as turn down the volume.
In light of which, David Gilmour asking money to merely get away seems awfully and unnecessarily polite, though for me, every one of the barbs against the evil green god and its acolytes is spot on.
Is any amount of financial incentive really worth the daily game of us and them between the us of the undervalued and overworked ordinary advisor and them in managerial positions seemingly willingly ignorant of the uphill struggle against indifference, paying lip service to the importance of welfare while not acting upon it?
Out of my way, it’s a busy day. What will become of us if/when the dam breaks, inevitably far too soon, is too much to contemplate. Not that it stops myself and others doing so on a daily basis.
Alongside the three-and-a half years’ worth of exposure to close, loud and sustained noise treated as a necessary evil is the mental toll of unwanted thoughts, the lunatic on the grass of the mind given licence to roam to dark places indeed beyond the reach of a mere sick note.
Mental equivalents perhaps to the Satanic mills of the Industrial Revolution, Great Britain’s place at the epicentre of the explosion of major change to the manufacturing process. But there is hope. Everything under the Sun is tune, but the Sun is eclipsed by the Moon.
A simple sentiment, again, a bookend to what started with a simple exhortation to Breathe. There is life outside the constant cycle of work-eat-sleep-repeat, it’s just that finding out exactly what that constitutes as well as breaking the cycle of negativity can be increasingly difficult.
Natural light against its hideous artificial cousin, if you will.
And if anyone should know it’s the man who built a Wall years before exactly the sort of chap he to this day detests with a passion ever got round to doing so. Before you become another brick in some similar horrid monument to misery, or if you feel yourself slipping having been put into place, consider this:
”I know you have these bad feelings and impulses because I do too, and one of the ways I can make direct contact with you is to share with you the fact that I feel bad sometimes.”
So said that man Waters again, getting to the point quicker and more efficiently than any focus group fumbling for meaning where too often it feels like there is none.
Who knows, perhaps one day we’ll work up the confidence to play different tunes amid the soul destroying rhythms of service industries.
For now, though, perhaps we should be grateful that at least one person wasn’t scared to try picking up the baton and proved wise enough to concede there might be a few bum notes along the way.