We all know that people who play the same five songs over and over are the devil. That's a specific case of the rule that generally holds true. Any song becomes marginally less tolerable (and marginally more likely to drive you crazy as a shit house rat) when it is

How have I learned this? The same way you have, I'm sure--bitter experience. My freshman year at St. Andrew's, during study hall, the guys in the room next door were playing something--I seem to recall that it was Ace of Base--on repeat. They'd been playing the song practically all day, and I was starting to crack.

I went next door and asked them to turn it off, but they insisted:
"It's stuck in our heads!"
"I'm almost sick of it--I promise, after this, I'll never play it again."

I agreed not to get the prefect involved if one of them would loan me a Discman to drown it out. My roommate (who was also sick of the song) loaned me his battery-powered pocket speakers. I inserted They Might Be Giants' outstanding 1990 album Flood, and endured the torment of their music until study hall ended. We were free! For an hour, we didn't have to be in our rooms, and for half an hour, we could roam amongst girls!!! In the ruckus surrounding the bells that announced our freedom, nobody heard me or Josh laughing.

We stayed upstairs, and cued up that short, sweet little ditty "Minimum Wage". For those of you not familiar, it's about 42 seconds long. It has no lyrics except for a man screaming "Minimum Wage! Hyah!" and cracking a whip at the beginning; otherwise it's a cheery, cheesy instrumental. This was... satanic. But, at the same time, it was ideal. I pressed the repeat button twice to set it in that most-glorious and hell-spawned mode, repeat one. I turned the volume to about halfway, wrapped a loop of duct tape around the assembly, and stood on my bunkbed. Shoving the drop ceiling up and out of my way, I could see over the top of the wall and into... my neighbors' ceiling-space. An artful (but gentle!) shove, and the CD player and speakers were in their room, pretty much dead-center.

Josh and I went down to socialize with the girls. It was, after all, high school. We had to get our game on, or die trying.

An hour later, tired from our hijinks, we brushed our teeth like good little boys, and went to our bedroom. It usually took a good ten minutes after the bells for the commotion of social hour to die down, so we waited, silently. Bed check... lights out... finally, a calm like a senior sleeping through physics descended on Hillier Corridor.

Dimly, we could hear it, but only because we were listening for it. Maybe a minute went by--a repetition and a half--when Reg's voice was audible next door: "what the fuck?" A few moments of heated discussion. We could hear them scrambling around the room, moving beds, digging through closets, looking for the disembodied song that was flailing at their sanity every 42 seconds. The noise died down, but not the music...

Reg opened our door, slipped into our room, and closed the door behind him, leaving the light off. He whispered, very quietly, "Where in God's name did you put it?" We laughed, and laughed, and laughed, as 13-year-olds are wont to do, and once we elicited the ransom from him--a promise to never play Ace of Base again--we revealed the secret. He seemed puzzled. "How am I supposed to get it down?"

We had absolutely no clue; we set it up there by standing on our bunkbed and tossing it well out of arm's reach, but Reg and his roommates didn't have their beds bunked.

I think we eventually--the next day? I don't remember how long we pondered it--resorted to a bevy of broomsticks, but that's not the point. See, I told you that story to tell you this one. The point is that two years later, Dave and Chuck, who were rooming together, bet a case of soda that one of them could make the other turn off the stereo. This arose out of the fact that they both listened to the stereo all the time, even at night, and as soon as one left the room, the other would put in his preferred CD and leave it looping. The cycle repeated every day. When Chuck had class, Dave's music was in, and vice versa.

The situation had come to a head, and the bet was established:

  • each song would get 24 hours of consecutive, repetitive, repetitive, repetitive airplay
  • the volume could be turned down to 2 during lights-out, but the person who chose the song could control the volume otherwise
  • Dave and Chuck would alternate picking songs
  • A coin toss determined the first victim
  • Whoever turned off the stereo first lost the case of tasty beverage of the winner's choice, as well as control of the CD player for the next week.

Now, understand--these are both people who put in one CD and listen to it forever. They murdered Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream, Dave Matthews Band's Under the Table and Dreaming, and many otherwise wonderful albums. Oh, and everything by Jimmy Buffett.

So it was going to be a good contest. Except that Dave chose something moderately tolerable--something by Pearl Jam--and Chuck survived. Chuck chose Minimum Wage, that old standby, at the beginning of a two hour study hall, and Dave broke down after an hour and a half. He claimed it wasn't a fair song, and Chuck put in Harvey the Wonder Hamster. Dave surrendered after about ten minutes, and happily bought the case.

So, the moral of the story is: if you're trying to reform someone's atrocious tendency to listen to one song over and over, don't fight fire with fire. Fight fire with "Flood".

...or hamsters.
Whichever's easier.

While working on a longcruise in the US Navy, puffing towards the Persian Gulf on a small Fast Frigate, there was one guy on my detachment that would play the same cassette tape, over and over. The tape was actually starting to wear a bit, and you could hear the high notes start to warble from the sun beating down on the overworked stereo-boombox.

We listened to John Cougar Mellencamp. Over. and Over. and Over again.

This went on for almost a week, when he switched to Meat Loaf, some post-Bat out of Hell tape. That also was played over and over and over again.

We grew sick of this limited range of muzak, and our Chief told us it was first-come, first-served when it came to that boombox.

The guy in charge of the paperwork for repairing our two helicoptors was AZ3 Erving, and he happened to have a CD of... The Dead Milkmen! We taped the one song called Bitchin' Camaro on a cassette about 16 times in rapid succession, then went out to put it in the boombox before the Monotonous Sailor showed up for his shift.

As soon as he walked through the door, we started the tape with the volume set up almost where the distortion would melt aluminum. He listened to it the first time through with a look of disgust. When it repeated, his look was worse. He never said a word, though. He put up with Bitchin' Camaro, and when the tape was over he replaced it with the John Cougar tape.

The next time I run into this situation, I think I'll take Jurph's advice and use hamsters on the evil repeat-offender (with the hamsters starved for two days and shoved down his shorts whilst he sleeps).

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