When Billy Joel’s “Keeping the Faith” is played through tinny laptop speakers seven feet away, it forms a distracting background fuzz, especially if you’re trying to listen to the _good_ music that’s playing in the coffee shop at the time. When the song reaches those points in the refrain where Billy sings “keepin’ the FAAAAAAAITH,” it is epochally irritating. I can’t even describe the headache that “Fai-ai-ai-aith” triggers.
When the guy seven feet away started playing the song, I assumed he was just listening to an excerpt, or maybe it was the soundtrack to some annoying website, and that it would end momentarily. But it kept on going and going — he must have had the song on continuous repeat or something. I glanced back his way surreptitiously to see if he was working with some sort of sound editing software — maybe making the KTF Super-Extended Remix — but no, he was checking his email and chatting with someone on MSN.
I waited to see if the song would end, and it didn’t. I waited to see if it would be possible for me to function in a meaningful way while it was playing, and it wasn’t. With a heavy heart I donned the mantle of the Coffee Shop Jerk.
“Excuse me, could you cut the sound on that?”
I even deliberately said “cut the sound” and not “turn it down” because I suspected that hearing it at half volume would have been even worse. He cheerfully (though not apologetically) turned his volume all the way down. Now all is pleasant again, except that there’s an invisible wall between the guy seven feet away and me. I have to avoid making eye contact with him. The sanctity of urbane coffee shop conviviality has been shattered. Curse that Billy Joel!