While working at my nine to five this summer, I sat next to an eccentric woman in her sixties—let’s call her Carmela. She has been working at our company for decades, begrudging each day as much as the last, but taking care of business nonetheless. She hangs up on calls with a sigh. She goes on walks through the office when she is bored and teases the IT guys to their faces. She is five feet of pure, unadulterated power and sarcasm. I envy her energy, and I often miss her. Since we met on my first day of work in 2017, we have developed a partnership to rival Lennon and McCartney, Coffee and Donuts. By this, I mean that whenever she says something, I nod my head and agree.
Carmela is a wonderful, forceful and caring presence, but one thing I can’t stand about sitting next to her is her ringtone. Around 3 p.m. each afternoon, she refills the coffee machine in the kitchen. While this is happening, she inevitably gets a phone call, and her ringtone begins, loudly, disturbingly, unceasingly. It is one of the worst sounds I have ever heard with my mortal ears. It starts with a quiet bird sound, then the birds grow to a flock. They chirp, they caw, they tweet, rhythmically, and they don’t stop for what seems like minutes. Around me, my coworkers put their headphones on or make sour faces. I am closest to the noise, so, I often put my head down on my desk and wait until the storm has passed. This is by far my least favorite noise in the world, which got me thinking: what are other sounds that I don’t like? The result is the following.
10. The sound of my 2010 Toyota Corolla reversing
Trying to fix a used car is a fruitless task. No matter how many times you change the oil or fix the fan belt, something is bound to come crashing back down. Like Sisyphus, whenever I accomplish something, I have to start all over again. I had my car fixed a month ago, and it’s already making a new screeching noise.
9. The sound of helicopters passing overhead
Hearing planes go by has never bothered me—it’s when helicopters get involved that I start to worry. I live near a hospital, so I often hear helicopters, and they sometimes get too close for comfort. When I was young, I would imagine they were full of federal agents searching for me, possibly because of all the movies I had been watching for free online.
8. The high-pitched sound of bugs during the daytime
Outside of my window in New Paltz, there is a large tree. It provides me with shade and privacy, but I can’t help but notice the high-pitched sound of bugs that persists through night and day. I don’t actually hate this noise. I am mostly just confused by it.
7. The FitnessGram Pacer Test
If you attended public school in the 2000s, you’ll be familiar with the profoundly immoral and wicked assessment that is the FitnessGram Pacer Test. “The FitnessGram Pacer Test is a multistage aerobic capacity test that progressively gets more difficult as it continues,” a dull, droning voice would say over the gymnasium speakers. As an asthmatic child, this noise pushed me to the point of emotional defeat before the test had even started. I knew that in an hour, I would not be breathing correctly.
6. “DJ Khaled!”
“We the best music! Another one. DJ Khaled!” shouts the American DJ, DJ Khaled in every single one of his songs. To me, it causes the same reaction in my body that a fire alarm does. I just can’t take it anymore. Can you?
5. The Glee Version of “What Does the Fox Say?”
As a Glee fan, I recoil at the mere thought of this song. If you can’t imagine how bad this rendition would be, please note that the cast performs this highbrow number with Avenue-Q style puppets.
4. Gas pumps with built-in TVs
If you’re going on a road-trip with the intention of unplugging, think again. There’s no escape from mass media, and if you so much as stop for gas on the wild country roads, you’ll be plunged right back into the steely grip of entertainment TV.
3. My Own Alarm Clock
Since I’m such a heavy sleeper, I own an alarm clock on wheels. It rolls off of my desk and tumbles around the floor, screeching like an emergency vehicle until I fumble blindly for it and press snooze. I sometimes bump my head on my bookshelf, or trip over piles of clothing before I reach a full state of consciousness.
2. The “Happy Birthday” song, sung at a restaurant
“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday, dear uhh…” sing the patrons in the restaurant once they realize that they don’t actually know the stranger at the table adjacent. I shudder at the thought of being serenaded by a group of underpaid Applebee’s employees.
1. My Coworker Carmela’s Ringtone
My least favorite noise at the moment—the one that inspired this article—is my coworker Carmela’s ringtone. I hope she’s doing well, and one day finds a less abrasive alert noise for her phone.