Of course I'm not in love with fingernails on chalkboards, but it doesn't drive me batshit the way it does some people. My own personal 'thing' happens to be the sound corrugated cardboard rubbing against corrugated cardboard. Whenever I'm packing something up in a box to mail and—despite my best precautionary efforts—one edge of the box's flap happens to scrape against the flat side of another flap, my shivering soul is squirted out of the tip-top of my cranium... like ketchup out of a squeezable bottle. That's how serious it is. I don't actually believe in 'souls' in the spiritual sense, but if we metaphorically abstract the non-quantifiable portion of our being into a so-called inner self, then this inner self actually flees my body to escape from the sound. I can't even invent a precise analogy that would make anyone understand what that feeling feels like. All I can say is that my marrow shudders. I'm not exactly sure what that clause means on an entirely literal level, but instinctively I feel that it's apt.
But I didn't come here today to tell you about my corrugated cardboard issues. (I doubt that you'd have the time to explore them fully with me anyway.) I really wanted to talk about a new sound aversion that I've become aware of in the last—I don't know... year or so? Unlike the scraping cardboard, this sound is not only aural; it's also contextual—which I find odd. How can the context of a sound make it more repellent? (What kind of baroque psychology are we humans subject to anyway?)
Let me explain. I'll be as brief as I can be. There's this woman in my office—no, this isn't Sandy, by the way—who (how do I put this delicately?)... rustles her sack. I'll call this sack rustler Maureen for the sake of convenience. Occasionally Maureen goes out to get her lunch at one of the several fast food restaurants in the area—Wendy's and McDonald's being the two most common—and she brings the food back to her desk to eat. Maybe you're one of those militant gourmands or self-righteous hippies who never eat fast food, so I'll tell you that most of these places toss the food, garbage-like, into a paper bag. It's a very dry, cheap, fibrous, recycled kind of paper. (I'm setting the stage here.) Well, when Maureen carries her sack past my office she grasps it at the very top and allows it to sway a little, in keeping with her leisurely gait. This generates a faint, intimate, sickening rustling sound that gives my psyche a seizure.
I try to pinpoint what it is about this sound that sends me hurtling into another dimension, but I come up empty—especially since the same rustling in other contexts doesn't especially bother me. It's the looseness of the grasp, the slightness of the sway, and the subtlety of the rustle which together create an effect so galling that I want to run up and kick the sack out of her hands and then stomp on it until her food is pulverized. You think this is weird? I couldn't agree more. I'm actually perplexed myself.
The word that keeps popping up in my mind in connection with the sack rustling sound is 'intimacy.' Its an exceedingly intimate sound, shared between a woman and her sandwich. It's almost as if there's a latent (and yet abhorrent) sexuality in the gentle crinkling of the recycled paper. It has nothing to do with Maureen herself because she's ignorant of her relationship with the sack. She doesn't interface with the sack sexually, but the objective reality of the noise graduates (or devolves) to a grotesque intimacy beyond the purview of her conscious will.
It isn't just a noise. It's a noise existing, inextricably, in time and space. It accosts me like a gypsy beggar. I have to shake it off and run away and shower afterwards. I have to find that place inside where the rustling can't find me.