HA! Earworms and It's a Small World After All! Thanks Dave :)
Dave's email this morning...
I've been told I should call these "essays" rather than "columns". Whatever they are, here's a new one:
Scientists at Western Washington University have discovered a technique to get rid of earworms – the technical term for those “annoying tunes that lodge themselves inside our heads and repeat on an endless loop.” They found that you need to do something that takes up space in your brain where earworms reside. Puzzles that tax your brain like anagrams or Sudoku were found to be very effective. Reading a novel worked for some people in the study. “The key is to challenge your brain”, said the lead researcher. “If you don’t use your brain, earworms will likely stick around. That is why none of the teenage boys in the study were ever successful ridding themselves of earworms”.
Scientists discovered that the worst offending songs were those by Lady Gaga, so I decided to try to replicate the study’s results. First, I needed to create an earworm in my head. I bought one of Lady Gaga’s hits, “Born This Way”, and listened to it ten times in a row. Sure enough, the chorus kept playing in my head – a definite earworm. Next, I did something that wouldn’t challenge my brain – I watched an episode of “The View” my wife had recorded. As predicted by the study, when the show ended, the Lady Gaga chorus was still playing in my head. Finally, I tried to do something that would challenge my brain to see if it would get rid of my annoying earworm. So I watched the same episode of “The View” and this time I tried to follow Joy Behar’s logic. That taxed my brain so much that the Lady Ga Ga tune was gone in 47 seconds.
However, there is a dark side to the study of earworms. In 2009, Mr. Jess Marker, a man confined to a wheelchair, went to Disneyland with his family. At exactly 3:34 p.m. he got on the popular ride “It’s a Small World”. In case you have never been to Disneyland, “It’s a Small World” has been described as a “motorized boat ride that features over 300 brightly costumed audio-animatronic dolls in the style of children of the world, frolicking in a spirit of international unity, and singing the attraction's title song, which has a theme of global peace.” The song and its catchy lyrics (“It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all, it’s a small, small world”) are sung over and over and over . . . and over and over again. Unfortunately, the boats broke down while Mr. Marker was inside. Everyone exited except for poor Mr. Marker. Disneyland had neglected to provide a way for wheelchairs to leave the attraction. It only took 30 minutes for mechanics to repair the boats, but by that time the 300 brightly costumed audio anatomic dolls in the style of children of the world were inspiring feelings other than a spirit of international unity or a theme of global peace. The man’s attorney estimates that Mr. Marker heard the “Small World” song 182 times! He was traumatized and reportedly had an earworm for three days. He sued Disneyland and was awarded $8,000 for his trouble.
By now, you certainly are humming “It’s a Small World” to yourself and for that I am truly sorry. But I hope you will be willing to participate in a follow-up study by Western Washington University. You see, no one in their original study could find a technique to get rid of the “Small World” earworm. I promised the researchers that I would pass along any information I received.DO NOT listen to the actual music for more than ten minutes as serious harm might occur. The United States military now plays “It’s a Small World” continuously as a part of its enhanced interrogations. Don’t worry, this particular earworm is not dangerous and should go away by itself in three or four days. In the meantime, however, I recommend that you not operate any heavy equipment or make any important life decisions.
David LeSueur lives with his wife Mary in Littleton, Colorado. Those of you old enough to remember Jess Marker – I mean Fess Parker – are probably now singing the theme song to “Davy Crockett” to yourself.” (“Born on the mountaintop in Tennessee . . .”)