Non-Smokers get to sit in front of the bus now. Nicotinc-free zones are expanding.
But what about people who dislike incessant music? What about citizens who are allergic to background music, as some people are allergic to chemical stimulants or tranquilizers? They suffer headaches, irritability, depression and hard-to-control anger from prolonged, forced exporsure to Muzak, and the amplified hillbillies or rock 'n' rollers.
Now that we are learning to respect the rights of non-smokers, the handicapped, women, blacks, ethnics, gays and other long-suffering minorities, it is time, I submit, to respect the right not to have sound piped in our ears.
Granted, only a minority objects to (or suffers from) force-fed music, just as only a minority objects to airborne and hay fever.
The vast majority in America is so insured to the ever-increasing noise in our surroundings that it does not care one way or another. "I don't even hear it any more," is the most frequent answer I get from sales people, nurses, or tellers who work in music-polluted stores, doctors' offices or banks.
Some like indscirminate music to drown out less desirable noises - like burning incense to overcome the neighbor's kitchen smells.
An Unknown number of people actually like sound stimulants while they work, wait, shop or eat. I suppose it saves them the trouble of whistling, reading, thing, or making conversation. I would not be surprised if the number of musical-incense addicts - the people who turn on the hi-fi the minute they get home - is increasing in our society.
They are not to be confused with music lovers (whose number is also increasing), any more than wine lovers should be confused with alcoholics. In fact, people who genuinely appreciate music - classic or otherwise - generally object to hearing it degraded to mere, unwanted sound or, worse, manipulated for "human engineering," as is the stated aim of Muzak.
"We have developed a specialized knowledge," says a Muzak sales broling and applying music with predictable effect . . . we can influence body, mind and emotion . . . conscious and subconscious."
Musical manipulation at place such as hospitals, factories, offices, shopping centers and transportation terminals, which we do not necessarily attend of our own free choice, requires some thought. If the American Civi Liberties Union has not looked into the matter as yet, it is most likely because the loudspeakers are deemed innocuous, if not beneficial, and no one seems to have made a complaint heard. Noise pollution is considered a necessary price for modern convenience. So, until recently, was air pollution.
What most object to, however, is the increasing frequency and volume of piped-in music. You can hardly find a store, restaurant or taxi anymore where your ears are not mercilessly assailed. This contributes to the increasing noise in our cities which, in turn, contributes to weekened public health.
The medical consequences of unwanted sound are scientifically established. Noise causes the pupils to dilate, small blood vessels to constrict, digestion to slow, breathing to quicken, the pulse to race, the blood pressure to rise, glucose to pour into the blood stream, secretion of adrenalin to speed up, and muscles to tense.
The results of these anatomical events can be headaches, insomnia, ulcers, kidney toouble, sexual impotence, heart and circulatory disease, and, in the opinion of some responsible physicians, adverse effects on unborn children.
I am sure the books & snacks store that turns on its hi-fi so high it blasts some of us right out the door, doesn't mean to damage embryos. But neither, I suspect, does it do this to entertain customers.
Like bored taxi drivers, airline stewardesses and waiters, the sales people at the book & snack bar turn up the sound conditioner for their own pleasure. It makes it easier for them not to think about what they are doing.
I would gladly remind them. But I hate to shout at people.