Marilyn Englander: Earworms

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Marilyn Englander struggles to deal with that annoying condition known as earworms.

I suffer from earworms, those little sonic bits that burrow deep into your brain. They’re impossible to avoid, and utterly maddening, assaulting the subconscious around the clock.

If you are not susceptible to this parasite, lucky you. Those infected have ear worms for life. There is no known cure.

Music is the prime contagious agent. I borrowed my daughter’s car and got Taylor Swift clogged in my head. For days, I was humming one of her plaintive love songs — and next, compelled to try to puzzle out the song’s story line. Even more irritating. There was no escape. Even at 4 a.m., she was my steadfast companion.

I resorted to the nuclear remedy. Shoving an ancient CD into my even more antiquated boom box, I gave some old-time banjo and fiddle players Taylor’s spot while I cooked dinner. But then I had “that woman who done me wrong” worrying me all night.


Fortunately, next day in art class, my teacher played music to inspire us: two hours of opera. You wouldn’t have to be a lover of Mozart to experience such blessed relief. But since then I’ve been at the Marriage of Figaro every moment.

Sometimes earworms hatch out of nowhere. Pairing up black socks delivers the endless loop of a monotonous camp song I learned 50 years ago. If a radio ad suggests: “If you like what you see...” I have Beyoncé with me for a week. After I swim, I count footsteps instead of laps.

The solution for the long-suffering is to give that worm a job. On a walk, if I remember additions to the grocery list, I sing to my worm and bingo! I won’t forget. A Spanish language worm helps me learn verb conjugations. And forget needing a GPS — if I read aloud driving directions, my earworm will navigate.

My earworm is a tireless personal assistant, always eager to help.

But please! Don’t put me on hold when I call the doctor’s office!

With a Perspective, this is Marilyn Englander.

Marilyn Englander is a North Bay educator.