Do any of the following make you start grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw? Scraping, screeching, slurping, sniffing, snorting, slamming, (and those are just the sibilant ones.) Throat clearing, coughing, whistling, and in particular, that sort of through-the-teeth whistling, make me want to commit acts of violence.
Once, I stood behind a woman in the queue for customs at the International Airport. In an act of what I can only describe as utter misanthropy, she had chosen the buzzer from ‘Catchphrase’ as her message alert. As her texts came flooding in after the flight, her phone buzzed and chimed and dinged and it took a Herculean effort not to wrestle it from her hand and crush it to bits, right on the ‘Welcome to Belfast’ mat.
When I’m stressed out or tired, my sensitivity to noise becomes unbearable. I have abandoned shopping trolleys in Sainsbury’s because of raucous children and the jingly-jangly ambient music which churns on in the background, on an endless loop. I’ve asked to move seats in cafes and restaurants when neighbouring customers shriek with laugher. More than once my dining companions have labelled me, ‘The Fun Police.’
As a student, I clambered on top of a wheelie bin and bashed at a security alarm with a golf umbrella, and only stopped when the police arrived and told me that should I continue they’d be forced to bring me in.
I couldn’t control my facial contortions at an erstwhile friend’s high-pitched cackle, and had to backpedal my way out of the friendship with as much delicacy as I could muster.
I was thus reassured to read an article in The Guardian about ‘misophonia’ which is an extreme reaction to sounds. It didn’t completely exonerate me, (because I admit that I am generally intolerant and pernickety,) but I felt understood and comforted that 18% of the UK population also experience a disproportionate reaction to certain noises.
‘You’re easily annoyed,’ was a refrain I heard often as a child. It wasn’t unjustified, because I was a crabbed article, by turns irked and aggrieved, but when it came to the noise issue, I wasn’t alone, and if anything, I was the most normal one in the family. The Mothership’s particular nemesis was the whirr of the extractor fan; while my dad harboured a hatred for the shrill ding-a-ling of the doorbell. Any slurping of tea at breakfast time had my brother apoplectic with rage. Ironically, we lived next door to a drummer, which I think proves the point that if there is a God, she has a sense of humour.
Now, my misophonia is triggered by the aggressive purring of Bramble when he wants fed, especially when it’s so close to my face that I can feel the air from his little feline nostrils on my cheek. The crackling sound made by pupils when they squeeze plastic water bottles when I try to teach them, is responsible for the frown lines on my forehead. Chairs scraping against the floor made me search the internet for chair socks. Basically, it’s not easy being me. There’s no collective noun for us misophones, but I’m going to suggest ‘a twitch’, although LSB prefers ‘a cacophony.’ Feel free to share your own peeves and vexations, to make me feel better about my own idiosyncracies.