Offensive Music
The O Pine

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© 2001 Brian F. Schreurs
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For Sale: Bridge. Slightly used. You haul.
I was clacking away on the keyboard, moving commas and fixing spelling, listening to the Blues Brothers' rendition of "Rubber Biscuit", when the network engineer stopped in the hallway. She turned, looked at me, and walked into my office.

She always kind of irritated me, since her projects were invariably late -- a fact that she never seemed to notice, which made it all the more irritating. With the amount of material I'm responsible for editing, I seldom have time for her "emergencies". I have a sign on the wall, which she seems unable to read, that states: A failure to plan ahead on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part. I wish I wrote that, but I didn't.

So now she stood in my office and I wondered what horrible project must be inexplicably running late this time, when she said, "You know, that's offensive."

"What would that be exactly?" I inquired.

"The Blues Brothers."

I couldn't help myself. I laughed out loud.

Her face scrunched up like a red handkerchief caught in a blender. "White people shouldn't be playing black music like that. It's insulting."

"Right," I replied. "In that case I'd suggest you simply stay out of my office--" it was tempting to end the sentence right there-- "when you hear the Blues Brothers playing."

I didn't think her face still had space left for further scrunching, but it did. She scrunched and stalked off. I dismissed it as just another absurdity in the tech world.

A couple days later, The Man Who Signs My Paycheck, a.k.a. Paycheck Man or just PM, summoned me to his penth-- err, corner office. The network engineer was already there.

"We have a problem," he said. And I figured it had nothing to do with network engineering or how to spell it. I took a seat.

"We can't have people playing offensive music--"

"The Blues Brothers?!" I demanded.

"Regardless, this is a diversified workforce," he continued, "and we've all got to be sensitive to others. Evidently there is some concern that Caucasian-Americans performing African-American music may be perceived as implying that African Americans are inferior at playing their own music. Therefore, I've drawn up a division policy concerning the playing of music in offices that I'd like you both to review."

PM handed us a document that read something like this:

FROM: The Man Who Signs Your Paychecks

This office is committed to maintaining an open, diversified, and
aware work area. To that end, and in response to concerns raised
by your fellow co-workers, we are implementing the following
policy, which you may insert after page SA-12 of your employee

Music shall be played, if it is played at all, at a volume that
will not disturb other employees. Any such music, whether audible
or not, shall be sensitive to the cultures of the division. No
music, originally created by one ethnic background, shall be
played by musicians of a different ethnic background, as such
playing can be construed as suggesting the original ethnic
rendition is inadequate and must be improved upon.

Wow. I am always impressed when someone manages to protect us from discriminatory intolerance through indiscriminate intolerance.

"All right," I said, feigning defeat. "I'll stop playing Jimi Hendrix."

PM did a double-take. "What was that?"

"Well, you know, he did a cover of a Dylan song that... frankly... blew it away, " I explained. "I wouldn't want any Caucasian-Americans with voice problems to think they've been culturally robbed. I'll put Hendrix in the same drawer as other contraband such as Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones."

His jaw dropped.

"Of course, when we start throwing in all the Mellencamp and Springsteen albums -- oh, and Eric Clapton, god or not -- we might need to all line up at the Dumpster outside. I hope you'll at least let me keep my George Thorogood discs."

PM looked at his rack of CDs in the corner, then to the policy document on the table. "Well--"

"Yep, in fact it looks like a lot of us are going to be stuck with a small selection of music. Glam metal and '80s pop is about it. I hope you all enjoy..." I paused, pretending to think, "...Winger and Debbie Gibson."

The Man Who Signs My Paycheck snatched the policy document from the table.

"Yes, well, you've both been very helpful and I'll take your comments into consideration." He stood and brushed us out the door. "Thank you."

I smiled at the network engineer. Her face did the handkerchief thing again. I hummed my favorite John Lee Hooker tune on the way back to my office.