Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Auditory Torture

There has been a lot of talk in the news recently about torture. I, of course, mean the actual news, and not what the Kardashians are up to. That type of “news” is torture of another kind.

What is and isn’t actual torture has been discussed laboriously on the political round table talk shows. Experts, pundits, and news talking heads have beaten this subject to death - or at least into submission. They all seem to fail to see the irony; listening to them talk about torture that much is actually torture. It can almost make you care what the Kardashians might be up to.

The media seems very concerned about the physical side of “enhanced interrogations.” Perhaps someone was made to stand and stay awake for a really long time. Maybe someone didn’t get too much to eat. Someone was naked in front of other people? It all sounds a lot like college to me, but what do I know? No one has invited me to sit down at the round table and discuss any of this yet, but if they do, I will tell them everything they want to know about torture and national security.

I have very real, very recent first-hand experience with torture. Not physical torture, mind you, although I am over forty, so activities like going up stairs and getting out of bed are getting mighty close to feeling like “enhanced techniques.” No, I have experience with mental torture – specifically, auditory torture.

I have been to hundreds of classrooms to read my books, but yesterday I did my first all-school author assembly in the multi-purpose room. I have not spent any significant amount of time in a multi-purpose room since I graduated from the sixth grade, but yesterday I found myself needing to hang around inside one for about an hour or so before I started the assembly.

I didn’t last long.

The kids were all in class, so my time in the multi-purpose room started out with peace and quiet, but eventually shuffling of feet and voices could be heard behind a closed curtain up on the stage. Then, all of a sudden, the formerly tranquil cafeteria/basketball court was filled with the sounds of wounded and dying animals. Zebras brayed and seals barked. Hyenas huffed and cackled. Tiny elephants gave their last, dying, gurgling trumpet.

Or was that an actual trumpet? Oh my Lord, it was! It’s band practice!

The unseen, murderous musicians warmed up behind the big curtain for what seemed like five hours, but my watch, my cell phone, and the wall clock all conspired to lie and tell me it only lasted two minutes. Then I heard a teacher’s voice.

Oh my God, there is an adult stuck back there with them!? She’s so close to the noise! She will obviously die soon.

She mentioned something about Jingle Bells, and then the awful sounds began again. At times, it almost sounded like the students were all trying to play the same song, but no CSI team of forensic scientists in the world would have been able to piece together Jingle Bells out of the musical wreckage that ensued. It sounded as if someone had lined up a whole truckload of tubas, clarinets, trombones, and trumpets and then ran them all over with the truck.

I could not hear myself think. I could not feel myself breathe. I did not want to live any longer in that room. I blacked out momentarily and when I came to I was outside in the fresh air and sunlight. Apparently my brain’s fight-or-flight response had kicked in and my legs had carried my unconscious body to safety. I stayed away until it was almost time to start the assembly, and when I went back in, the killing of music had ceased, but I could still hear the same teacher talking to the students. Holy cow, she has been up there, stuck behind the curtain, enduring this for almost an hour! She must be bulletproof.

That thought reminded me of another time in my life when I was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. I was walking in the park one day last summer, and the ice cream truck was paralleling me on the neighborhood streets near the greenbelt. I was mercilessly pelted with The Entertainer for a solid ten minutes. I was off in the weeds looking for two sharp sticks that I could jam into my ears when, thankfully, he moved on and the horrendous noise pecking at my brain finally stopped. How the man who drives that infernal music box on wheels can function well enough to even fit the key into the ignition is beyond my comprehension.

Now, if you want information from someone, I guess you can make them stand for a long time, or make them skip some meals, or strip them naked and attempt to humiliate them. It might work, and it will definitely get you on the news. But if you really want good intel – I mean if you want them to beg to hand over every last scrap of useful information they have – there is only one way to go. Just sit them down in a nice comfortable room and pipe in elementary school band practice or the ice cream man’s tinny music box version of The Entertainer on infinite loop.

For fast, effective results, that kind of auditory torture can’t be beat. On the flip side, we should immediately entrust all of our nation’s top secrets to the elementary school band teacher and the ice cream man. They will never crack.

Until then, I guess we’ll have to flip the channel over to the Kardashians or continue to endure the irony of the media beating torture to death. No matter what, we need to avoid the multi-purpose room during band practice.

You know, come to think of it, the real irony here is that “Auditory Torture” would be a good name for a rock band.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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