In an effort to escape the incessant heat in California, I have fled to the air conditioned sanctuary of my local Starbucks. Unfortunately, most of the clientele must be deaf, as the music blasts at such levels, it's hard to think. Even with my own music blaring through headphones, I can still hear it. What's worse, is it drives poeple to talk over the racket, causing an even greater racket. And it's driving me mad. The loudest of all, ironically, are the staff themselves, who spend more time gossipping than making coffee. That's no doubt why my hot Americano arrived iced.
With a little effort (and progressive loss of hearing), I managed to tune out the caucophony and get writing. But not for long. For in a rare moment of quiet a new sound pierced the caffeinated air - a clicking. Well, more of a smacking. The sound one makes after eating a particularly good piece of pie. I thought I had imagined it, until it came again. And again. I turned around, expecting a small child, but was greeted instead by a 20-something guy in track pants, vest and sweat band. He was reading, but not silently. No, clearly the book was a rare San Bushmen publication, for he continued the smacks, now accompanied by clicks.
I turned and gave a stare. You know the one: that "what the heck, dude, you're not Xhosa!" look. There was silence for a short while, then the smacking picked up again, this time peppering conversation. A phone conversation about his credit level. Real English words this time, interspersed with his own phonetic punctuation (apologies to Victor Borge). Soon there were pops, too. Smacks, clicks and pops. It would be charming if it weren't so bloody irritating. Like a dripping tap. After a while, it doesn't matter if there's silence; you're brain is anxiously waiting for the next painful drip.
I ordered another coffee- "hot please!" - and tried to calm down. When I turned around, the guy had gone. Ah, sweet relief. But too soon! There was a pop-pop-pop to signify his return and then a whistling solo that would have made Roger Whittaker proud. Or not. And as the soaring strains of "Halleluja" wailed around my brain with the whistler-popper-smacker providing tone-deaf harmonies, I shed a tear for the whales, a few short miles away, that would soon beach themselves in protest.
I'll be starting a petition to outlaw clicking, smacking and popping in public. If we don't take action now, people, the movement could grow out of control. Before you know it, poppers and smackers will be driving cars, in the White House, or worse - raising kids!
Vote now, before it's too late!