A visitor to the college is struck by the charming buildings, the sylvan campus, the sight of students striding purposefully at 7:55 a.m. to their macroeconomics class in Hoover. But above all, she is impressed by how quiet the place is. Indeed, she might think, is there a more suitable environment for cogitation, reflection and inquiry — a better haven for liberal learning?
But our visitor would be unaware of the darker currents that eddy under the placid surface. Take the growing storm in Hoover, a vexatious situation that is not immediately obvious to the casual observer. Word has it that the Dean has been apprised of the state of affairs — and given his background in political science, he is well-equipped to deal with the kind of dark arts that currently afflict the genteel halls of Hoover.
In most cases, economists are the troublemakers, predicting six of the last three recessions, for instance, but missing the grand-daddy of them all, the Great Recession of 2008-09. But in the current imbroglio, the fault lies not with the economists, but with the marketeers. And the problem has to do with a most unusual reason: sound.
Or, rather, as Homer sees it, noise.
At a certain point during his 8 a.m. class, Homer and his students are distracted by something that occurs in the adjacent classroom: the noise of the door opening and closing repeatedly. The noise production is occasioned by a break in Dr. Brownberg’s marketing class; and as the students stream out of the room and then return after the undoubtedly well-deserved intermission, the door swings back and forth each time, causing an endless series of squeaking and clanging sounds that invade Homer’s own classroom, leading to titters, giggles and expressions of feigned outrage. (Mostly by Homer himself.)
But there is good news! Word about the noisy assault on Homer’s classroom must have evidently reached Dr. Brownberg’s ears, for one day, the sounds ceased altogether. Homer and his class would wait with bated breath at the appointed time for the disruptions to occur — and nothing! Peace and quiet ruled the roost.
Had the marketing class forsworn breaks, Homer wondered? He hoped such was not the case: if pedagogical needs were being met with well-chosen pauses in instruction, why, they should be allowed to happen. He asked his students about the curtain of silence that had suddenly descended between the rooms.
The explanation renewed Homer’s faith in the ingenuity and camaraderie of the marketing faculty. Turns out that Dr. Brownberg had employed WD-40 to good effect: a well-administered spray of the miracle fluid, and the door’s hinges were now doing their business silently. The noise pollution emanating from Dr. Brownberg’s class was history. All was well in Hoover.
Well, all, save for yet another source of noise pollution, this one closer to Homer’s office. Turns out that Homer’s neighbor is Dr. Chunsku, another marketing faculty whose decidedly quiet demeanor and placid exterior is belied by the volume of his office stereo.
When Homer totters into his office after a particularly demanding class lasting an hour and forty minutes, he is looking for, nay craving, peace and quiet, but instead, what does he find? The sound of some infernal music wafting through the walls of his office! One day it might be Paul McCartney warbling about ebony and ivory, the other it might be the lugubrious strains of some classical piece. The din cuts across all musical boundaries, before entering Homer’s office, insidious, unbidden and unwelcome.
It is not that Homer is averse to music. But there is a time and place for it, damn it! And it is not just Homer who has noticed the auditory interference. Even management professor Dr. Chris Tina-Caesar, whose office lies two doors away, has acknowledged hearing the pernicious sounds of music coming from Dr. Chunsku’s office at strange hours. She has commiserated with Homer, and the two of them routinely plot strategies to foil their wretched colleague.
But nothing has worked yet. Dr. Chunsku claims that he owns the property rights to sound; the silence cherished by his neighbors is of no consequence to him. In fact, he believes that he is doing a service to the denizens of Hoover by providing them with musical interludes for zero cost and effort. Homer and Tina-Caesar should be grateful to him, not complaining to the Dean or writing to the college newspaper about his tendencies.
The campus visitor may not have noticed, but things are at an impasse in Hoover.