Sotto Voce

I have a tendency occasionally to hyperfocus, which means that when I’m really in the zone about something, a video game (rarely), writing (fairly often), staring at someone (very often), or listening to music (very often), I tend not to notice a lot of other surroundings, like for example, someone honking their horn to tell me that I’ve wandered out in the street when I have a don’t walk sign.

Hyperfocusing, it means I really haven’t the slightest idea what’s going on around me other than the immediate thing on my mind. It doesn’t happen a lot, but when it does, it’s often disastrous.

So one evening, I’m sitting on the third floor of the James Cabell Branch VCU Library, in front of a huge sign informing me that this floor is a Sotto Voce floor, meaning that while it isn’t a silent floor, it is a floor on which you must speak in hushed tones to allow for others to concentrate and accomplish their many important academic exercises. I am here to leech the wireless internet in order to get a few menial internet tasks done. I’m here to check myspace, facebook, email. I’m here to chat on aim, write a blog, maybe make some sort of small purchase via paypal perhaps, maybe look up some song lyrics that have been stuck in my head. I am here for the mundane.

Anyone that knows me knows that I have music playing at all times, and this time is no exception. I have my headphones on and I am jammin pretty hard to Kanye West. It’s the College Dropout so I’ve gotten through the intro, We Don’t Care, then the graduation day skit, and I’m halfway into All Falls Down and I’m noddin my head pretty hard and mouthing the words to myself. My music’s up pretty loud and I’m rocking pretty hard while I check myspace. I notice that a lot of people are staring at me but I’m sure they just think I look silly nodding my head to my music.

At some point I get up to go to the bathroom and take my headphones off, and when I do I realize that I can hear the music just as loud as before, if not louder. I’m confused for a moment, then I look at my computer’s headphone jack:
As you can see, there are two round holes of the exact same size. The one to the right is a headphone jack, the other hole is…well I have no idea what it is. In my stupidity, I realize that what happened is this: I plugged my headphones into the wrong jack, and so my computer was blaring music from my computer speakers at maximum volume. My little laptop speakers never seemed very ample before, but when you’re in a room that’s more or less dead silent, the sound that comes out of those little things is actually quite impressive. Imagine someone with an obnoxious ringtone, but much much louder and it goes on for three whole songs.

I could hear the music, and my headphones were on, it just never registered that I wasn’t actually hearing the music through my headphones. So now I realize that the twenty or so people near me that have been glaring at me for fifteen minutes are doing so for a very good reason, because I am a huge douchebag. On top of the general embarrassment of playing really loud music on a quiet floor and looking like an asshole, I also looked like a complete nutcase because I still had my headphones on.

Needless to say, I avoided eye-contact as I quickly packed up my laptop and made a swift exit.

Sotto Voce, yeah for real.