不过，有利也有弊那就是噪声。你会不断地听到这些知名作家发出各种声音：咳嗽、hack up phlegm吐口水、嘬矿泉水塑料瓶、狂敲键盘、偷打电话、偷听手机音乐——Dark Side of the Moon、长须短叹，写不出来东西；没吃午饭的吃药片，吃过午饭的打呼噜，有时还要放屁，晕呀！
Silence is louder than words
TO STOP myself wasting entire weeks at home playing Fur Fighters: Viggo’s Revenge, and to avoid being asked, “How’s the book going?” in the office, I have been spending a large proportion of my time in a London library popular with a certain number of established writers.
At first I loved it, not least because it was fantastic to discover that a certain number of established writers find writing as difficult as I do. As I type these words in the reading room, one of Britain’s best-selling authors is sitting at the desk next to me with his head in his hands, apparently on the brink of a full-scale nervous collapse. It’s fantastically reassuring.
But there is one downside: the noise. I am constantly distracted by the sound of these established writers coughing, belching, hacking up phlegm, slurping bottled water, clacking maniacally at their keyboards, listening surreptitiously to voicemails, listening surreptitiously to Dark Side of the Moon on their iPods, sighing heavily when work is going badly (it always seems to be going badly), swallowing indigestion tablets after lunch, snoring at their desks after lunch, farting after lunch and the like.
This irritability is a new thing. In the past, when I worked at home or in the open plan office of the Financial Times, I was relatively resilient to background noise. I grew up in a loud household — the perpetual crashing of kitchen equipment mingling with the ceaseless screaming of children and the endless whooping of aunties — so what on earth has happened?
Usefully, it transpires that the topic of workplace noise has been tackled by several academics so earlier this week I devoted an entire morning to reading papers with titles such as A case study of office speech noise distraction and work productivity in periodicals such as the Journal of Applied Psychology.
Unfortunately, while the questions they examined were fascinating — exploring whether speech is more distracting than other workplace noise, whether a single voice is more distracting than a babble of voices, and so on, and while the experiments they detailed were very entertaining, involving, as they sometimes did, measuring the stress hormone levels in office worker’s urine — the conclusions were either incomprehensible, obvious or wrong.
After much deliberation, one set of researchers came to the conclusion that “overheard conversation” was the most distracting noise in the office. Another set of researchers concluded that “continuously ringing telephones” were the most distracting noise in the office.
Frankly, I find it hard to take either claim seriously, for if there is one thing that anyone who has worked in any office knows, the most annoying noise — the one thing guaranteed to make anyone homicidal — is the sound of someone slowly chomping an apple at their desk.
I was about to give up on these academics when I came across Benjamin Markham’s A survey of the acoustical quality of seventeen Libraries at Princeton University, originally presented at the 146th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America.
I nearly gave those snoring around me a run for their money when I read the title, but beneath it lay a simple but profound observation: workspaces that are designed to be quiet actually
increase distractions because in a completely quiet space workers can literally hear anything. In fact, in quiet, open workplace conditions, “freedom from distractions” may be achievable only by increasing the levels of background sound, not decreasing them.
This paradox explains my recent irritability very well. In the peaceful stillness of a library the slightest hiccup sounds like a rhinoceros belching thunderously over a public-address system.
However, there is something else to say about office noise for which I can proffer no scientific proof, but which is nevertheless true: to some degree, one’s irritation with a noise depends on who is making it.
For example, the sound of your overbearing, moustachioed boss slowing chomping an apple will be more irritating than the sound of the girl-you’ve-always- fancied-from-marketing doing the same. There are some people so annoying that even their breathing grates.
Indeed, I’ve come to the conclusion that at least some of my current irritability is due to the fact that I don’t know any of the people around me, and it is always easy to dislike people you don’t know. I was planning to tackle the problem by putting a note in the library suggestion book recommending the introduction of background noise to the building, but instead I’m going to do something simpler: I’m going to start talking to the established
writers sitting around me. Though not in the reading room, of course. Financial Times.
作者： Sathnam Sanghera 译者：Jeremy(PEGroup成员)