An earworm, sometimes known as a brainworm, sticky music, or stuck song syndrome, is a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person's mind after it is no longer playing.
Greetings, WYMOP readers!
This morning I had a song stuck in my head. It happens a lot, I know, and to lots of people, but with me there’s an added problem: I sing. Not all that well, but often, and usually without thinking. I whistle, too. Sometimes I’m like a noise machine, and if I’m busy doing something somewhat mindless—sorting the mail, walking my route, driving a car, all that stuff—then everyone around gets to hear what’s running through my head like it’s on a constant loop.
This morning it was (and I have no idea why) “Rockin’ Robin,” by Bobby Day. It’s not even like I remember all the lyrics to the song—though, to be honest, there’s only a handful of songs out there I do remember all the lyrics to. This is why I whistle: I may lose the words, but the tune sticks like glue.
So all morning I was whistling “Rockin’ Robin.” I went out to load up my truck whistling “Rockin’ Robin.” I sorted my mail whistling “Rockin’ Robin.” I went out to deliver my route whistling “Rockin’ Robin.” See? It sounds repetitive to you, and you weren’t even there. It’s been like thirty seconds, four or five recurrences of just the title, and already you’re probably ready to give me a swift kick to the jangly bits.
It even started wearing on me. There I was, slogging around in the rain (sans rain gear, but that’s another story) on a 40 degree day, whistling this jaunty tune the whole time because I simply couldn’t stop. “Well,” my customers would say, “someone’s not letting the weather get them down.” Or, “So, you like this rain?” Or even, “Wow, that’s what I like to hear: someone happy with their work.”
The problem was the weather was getting me down, and I don’t like the rain, and (this day, at least) I wasn’t happy with my work. I wanted to go home, take a hot shower, dry off, and sit with a hot cup of cocoa and write, or maybe read, or—if I felt I had the time—watch a movie to review for Monster Movie Madness. What I did not want was a bunch of happy-asses pointing out how cheerful I was when I really felt more like a frozen drowned rat than a party clown. I wanted to kick them in the jangly bits.
So I tried to drive the earworm out. I intentionally sang other earworms, trying to change gears somehow, or at least loosen the bright and cheerful stranglehold “Rockin’ Robin” had on me.
I sang the Gilligan’s Island theme. I sang The Addams Family theme. I sang Underdog. I whistled the hell out of The Munsters, Hawaii Five-0, and Mission Impossible. Nothing worked: I kept reverting to “Rockin’ Robin” whenever I wasn’t paying attention. In desperation, I turned to the biggest gun in the earworm arsenal, the mac daddy of all earworms, guaranteed to lock itself into place in even the most tone-deaf of persons: the theme from The Bridge Over the River Kwai.
It worked. Eventually.
The Bridge Over the River Kwai managed to knock “Rockin’ Robin” loose, and with everything else I had running through my head all day, what I wound up with by the time I’d finished my route was a jumble of words and tunes. Nothing could get a firm grip on me anymore; all my earworms were cancelling each other out.
I had won.
I walked in the office that afternoon with a smile on my face, despite the weather and my own physical misery. I stood at my bench, going through my end of the day routine. I was just tidying things up for tomorrow, when I realized the guy beside me was whistling something, and I’d started unconsciously whistling it along with him.
It was “Rockin’ Robin.”
“You son of a bitch,” I said. “I’ve been trying to get that damn song out of my head since this morning, and here you go putting it back in again?”
And the bastard jumped out of his case, leveled a finger at me, and shouted “Ahaaaaaaa!”
Dammit. Revenge, he said, was sweet.
Talk to you later.