How do you tell a colleague — one you really like — that his/her high-pitched whistling is like an ice pick stabbing the back of your left eye over and over and over and over and over and over and over again?
I have always been sensitive to certain kinds of sounds, but to avoid coming off like a high-maintenance jerk, I've learned to cope. Mostly. I still can't deal with shrill whistling, no matter how in tune or jaunty. Last week in Publix, I silently cursed a particularly enthusiastic whistler, one I could not seem to escape. Apparently, we were out of the same items. By the time we reached the frozen food aisle, I was nearly homicidal.
To people who don't have sensory issues, this kind of complaint seems incredibly petty. It screams, "Get over yourself," so I just put my headphones on when the whistling cranks up. For all I know, the sound of my voice might be like nails down a chalkboard to him. Still, there are times when I would rather not write while listening to U2. I had an office at my old job, and when certain sounds got to be a little much — the nonstop giggling of one co-worker comes to mind — I could just shut the door.
I know I'm not the only one with this problem. When I complain via e-mail to off-site friends, some of them will respond with comments along the lines of, "Office whistlers and chronic throat-clearers should be killed." My friend V. says the sound of cracking knuckles drives her insane. For others, it's open-mouthed gum cracking or noises that imply the presence of phlegm.
Then again, I have a job, which is no small thing in this economy. And Pandora.