Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Brain-Scrambling Earworms by Stuart R. West

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Not too long ago, on the way back from the grocery store (imagine this dramatically emblazoned upon the big screen like a Star Wars scrawl), my wife suddenly shouted, “Oh, my God!”

“What? What’s wrong?” I imagine the worst, maybe a spider crawling on the window next to her.  (And believe me, with her that is the worst; once she jumped out of her still running car when she saw a spider).

“I’ve got the EZ Brite jingle running through my head,” she exclaimed.

That actually brought me a great amount of happiness. EZ Brite doesn’t exist, nor does the jingle. It’s a fictional teeth-whitening product I created for my new comedy mystery, Bad Day in a Banana Hammock. One of my two protagonists, Zak (an extremely vapid, but good-hearted male stripper), has the jingle crawling through his head at the most inopportune moments. Particularly when he needs to focus on why he wakes up with no memories of the previous night. And next to a dead, naked man.

EZ Brite makes your teeth clean, EZ Brite gets out the greennnn…”

By definition, an earworm is a memorable piece of music that continually repeats through a person's mind after it is no longer playing. It’s also known as a brainworm; some people refer to it as “stuck song syndrome.” No matter what you call it, earworms are insidious and harder to get rid of than poison ivy.

What really surprised me, though, is the amounts of research scientists have given this phenomenon.  A long list of researchers (too long, too boring to list here) has been studying this illness since at least the ‘50s. 98% of the population is bothered by this condition. While it affects both men and women, it tends to irritate women more and stays with them longer (probably due to the natural tunnel vision of men). Suggested cures? OCD medication, brain puzzles like Sudoku and chewing gum.

“EZ Brite, nice and easy, seconds to apply, really breezy…”

Unfortunately, my fictional earworm has been bothering me since penning my book.

But I had relief over the holidays. Radio stations inundated us with even worse earworms.  You couldn’t turn the dial without being tortured by Santa Baby. For my wife, it was Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer. Both equally obnoxious earworms.

Chewing gum didn’t help me (my wife can’t stand to be around gum-chewers). Perhaps someday, scientists will actually create a true cure for this sickness that infects 98% of the world. With that high a percentage, you’d think the men in lab-coats would prioritize it. Maybe they’ll create a brain-implanted chip that can turn earworms off. I mean, we can “block” friends on Facebook with relative ease. This just seems like the next logical step.

“EZ Brite goes on quick, tastes so good, just give it a lick…”

And I apologize for contributing to this sinister disease with my fictional earworm.

There are more verses of the EZ Brite jingle in Bad Day in a Banana Hammock. There’s also Zach’s tough, take no guff, ex-detective sister, Zora, who has three kids in tow and one on the way. She’s also very cranky. Stir in a murder mystery involving a plastic surgery enhanced femme fatale, a frighteningly large and deadly European chauffeur, a dead politician, a gleefully loud politician, a Hillaryesque politician’s wife, a competitive male stripper in a fireman’s outfit, a conspiracy theory hermit, aging hippie parents, and squabbling kids and maybe—just maybe—you’ll be distracted enough to not add a new earworm to your minds IPod.