Friday, June 12, 2020

getting human voices into my working day

One of the things I have noticed about lockdown is the lack of human voices. Of course, I don't live alone, and there are kids and dogs and neighbours shrieking/barking/having fun in the back gardens (I live in a terrace) and workmen and dog-walkers and daily health walkers doing their job and business out front, but it's not the same as someone in your workplace gently discussing a problem five desks away, far enough to be screenable if you need to concentrate, close enough to tune in if you lack interest. Work had a music to it; the undernoise of the city centre (buses, weather, crowds) the intrusive squawks of buskers and vehicle alarms, the soft clatter of blinds, ventilation, machines and the sound of people talking to themselves, concentration humming, foraging for tea and biscuits, chatting, discussing, swearing gently at recalcitrant technology, hmming, aha-ing, tapping, typing and generally making the sound of working.

In its absence, I've struggled to concentrate. At work, when things get too noisy, or the tinnitus shrieks, I use that Youtube Classic, Ten Hours of Pink Noise. At home, that just makes me feel more isolated. So I've taken to listening to work-related seminars and short videos. But everyone overperforms and is too exciting, too groundbreaking, too sincere. I don't belong to the Youtube generation. This pitch and intensity is so needy, I can't do other work while it's going on.

In my quest to find someone calm enough, I turned to the motherlode of mindful narration, Sir David Attenborough. I can't listen to him during the working day, as the subject matter is always too thrilling, but the calming, measured tones approximate the professional sounds I am familiar with. My species' morning chorus, if you like. So I let him talk briefly through an observation or two (Life Stories is good) while I check my morning emails and meeting schedule, pick up yesterday's lists and reminders and sketch out the work of the day.

It has to be audio only, of course. Try to listen to David Attenborough on Youtube and he'll mention something you just have to look at. Don't take my word for this. Try playing this video in a hidden tab. You'll look, I promise.