Monday, August 1, 2016


In other words, I don't need this.
People who try on my glasses have been known to grab the nearest chair to keep from falling. Whatever the opposite of 20/20 is, short of blind, I'm there. But what I lack in vision, I make up for in hearing. 

If I'm in a group of people watching TV, I'm the last to say, "Turn it up." At the theater, people talking three rows behind me might as well be onstage declaiming their conversation. I go through two jumbo-sized jars of earplugs a year just to sleep. 

Simply put, I hear things, whether or not anybody else can. Yesterday, for instance, I was talking to my wife while sitting at the laptop, when I noticed drumming coming from what appeared to be the right speaker. "Did you hear that?" I asked.


"Drumming. It sounded like it was from the laptop." 
Air conditioner of the damned. 

"No, I didn't," she replied. "But I hear drums in the air conditioner!"

At that point, many spouses nod, smile benignly, and dial 911, requesting an ambulance with a straitjacket. 

Not me. I'm the most understanding of husbands. I reminded my wife of a similar phenomenon where many people think they hear their cellphone ringtones on commercial jingles, which The New York Times first reported on a decade ago. The takeaway:

Edvard Grieg would be proud
that his most famous work was now
playing in my pocket.

It happens to me occasionally, which I find baffling. Unlike the generic ringtones most people use, I chose the rinky-dink arrangement of "Hall of the Mountain King" specifically because it sounded like nothing I had never heard emitting from anybody else's phone.

But there's a difference, you must admit, between a cellphone and an air conditioner in use, size, and sound. Yet if my wife said she hears drumming in the a.c., who am I to judge, as Pope Francis once remarked. I patted my wife's hand and said, "Go in peace."

A couple of hours later, I was in our comfortably-cool living room, engaged in my usual Sunday habit of scrolling though Salon's readers comments section, when I realized I'd been hearing music for about five minutes. 

Neither the radio nor the CD were on; my wife was listening to the laptop through earbuds. In other words, there was nothing around me that should be the source of music. 

I put down my Fire Kindle and listened intently, like a Doberman Pinscher on the prowl for an escaped prisoner with an asthmatic wheeze. 

My ears perked up.

My Mouse, the Air Conditioner.
There was a xylophone playing inside the air conditioner.

We're not talking Lionel Hampton Live at the Blue Note, but Mickey Mouse playing a bull's teeth in Steamboat Willie. Cartoony. Frenetic. 

In the air conditioner.

I went out to the kitchen, motioned my wife to remove her earbuds, and exclaimed, "I hear music in the air conditioner!"

"See?" she replied, with a Now-you-know-I'm-not-crazy tone. "I told you!"

"But I hear a xylophone, not drums!" Just how a xylophone was less crazy than drums is something I still haven't figured out. What mattered was that we were hearing music from a device that wasn't supposed to offer anything but cool air. 

Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, I Googled the phrase "music from air conditioner." The closest hit I got was from a reader's forum on, a website whose topics include topics like "I Was a Professional 911 Truther and Still Am", "New Documents Prove Hillary Clinton Murder Cover-Up", and "People Are Freaking Out Over a Spooky Photo of Mike Pence's Family." So you know it was trustworthy.

The portal to The Music Man.
One of its readers admits to hearing not only music but DJs coming out of their sister's air conditioner in Arizona. They can't understand what's being said, but theorizes that it's "working at a frequency that is picking up things from another demention [sic]. And in this demention [sic], they speak a different language. I think it works very much like those spirit boxes. Where I've seen people use to talk to the dead."

Well, thank God we're not crazy. 

As I write this, it's a mere 77 degrees on the Upper East Side, a polar vortex compared to the last week, so there's no need for the air conditioner for today, or perhaps even the next several days. But when the inevitable heatwave returns, it'll be time to crank on the a.c., settle in, and listen to the "Frigidaire Concerto" from another world. And when I do, would you please be quiet?


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