The Man in the Red Shirt

Bang-bang-bang, wacka-wacka-wacka, gbrrrrrrrrr!

I must be in the coffee shop.

And I observe the man with the red shirt. Again. He took my place yesterday, and I found that very annoying. I like the brown easy chair in the dark corner and he was there. Today, a girl with a MacBook is there. I’m not as annoyed because she is not the guy in the red shirt, and in fact, she has displaced the guy in the red shirt.

I look at the girl and say to myself, “You displaced him,” and I imagine that she nods back, subtly, so no one can see it. “Good work,” I telepathically tell her.

So I glance around and see that he has set up his papers and books and pen and laptop and Filofax and Rolodex on a table in the exact middle of the brightly lit main part of the coffee shop.

But he is not sitting there being annoying. He’s actually outside pacing back and forth in front of the coffee shop window. He is, as is always, always true of him, talking on the cell phone in his annoyingly affected way.

He uses his left hand to hold the phone to his ear, index finger outstretched along the spine of the phone, his other fingers fisted around the base. He is listening with his left ear, which means he is processing his language with his right hemisphere, which is annoying.

He has his right thumb hooked through the side belt loop of his brown pants. Brown pants. How annoying. At least his thumb is not hooked through his back belt loop. Oh, no, wait, it is now! How annoying.

He walks in a semi-marching, semi-slouching cadence, with his arm double-timing his lurching footwork. Annoyingly. Old-style, Michael J. Fox, Reagan-era affectation. Get outta here, man. Trickle on down the road to some other coffee shop.

And his hair is not blowing in the wind. Yet there is a steady 15-knot breeze with gusts to 20. His hair. Is annoying.

At least I can’t hear him because he is outside. But he was inside before, and that was annoying. He was pacing in circles around the six-person table he’d commandeered in the middle of the room. He would round the table with his thumb in his belt loop in his semi-marching, semi-slouching “I’m making a deal on the phone” stance. Every time he made the south turn of the table, his head would thrust unabashedly in the direction of the upper half of the pretty girl sitting at the next table over. Oh, breasts (neck-stretch). Oh, I’m on the phone making a deal…making a deal…making a deal…. Oh, breasts (neck-stretch). Oh, I’m on the phone making a deal…making a deal…making a deal…. Oh, breasts (neck-stretch). Around and round he went, over and over, until he finally wandered outside and started his back-and-forth pacing. His annoying pacing.

I need this guy to get a desk job somewhere.

Tags: ,

11 Responses to “The Man in the Red Shirt”

  1. July 21st, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Romeo Vitelli says:

    You should show more appreciation for redshirts. Haven’t you ever seen Star Trek? They’re the first to get killed.

  2. July 22nd, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Barn Owl says:

    Red shirt man is definitely heavy with annoying habits, but processing auditory information with right hemisphere only isn’t one of them. There are both monaural and binaural pathways, so that auditory information from either cochlea goes to auditory cortices in both hemispheres. There’s a lot of cross-talk and switching from side-to-side in the auditory pathway all the way up the brainstem, from cochlear nuclei to superior olives to medial geniculate nuclei. Brainstem lesions, such as strokes, rarely cause deafness in one ear … that’s almost always the result of damage to the cochlea or the cochlear nuclei.

    But yeah, the guy sounds like an annoying affected poser.

    As opposed to being an annoying neuroscience instructor. ;-)

  3. July 22nd, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Brain stem aside, several studies have shown a side preference in ear use contra-correlated with language processing (not auditory processing) lateralization. So I shall continue to be annoyed at this particular habit.

  4. July 22nd, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Barn Owl says:

    Yet the sensory input in this case is entirely auditory, and it must go through the massively interconnected brainstem pathways first, regardless of which ear listens to the phone. Your cortex certainly can’t interpret auditory input directly. The cochlea itself is “tuned”, and the information is transmitted in a tonotopic manner throughout the brainstem connections to auditory cortex.

    Language processing in the cortex is already lateralized in Brodmann’s Area 22, with the dominant hemisphere (the left in most people) responsible for understanding the meanings of individual words, and the same area in the non-dominant hemisphere responsible for interpreting prosody (melody, pitch, etc.). Lesions to this particular region of the superior temporal gyrus in different hemispheres will cause fundamentally different types of aphasias. I doubt one can switch left/right hemisphere functions of Area 22, depending on which ear is listening to the phone. Not sayin’ it can’t happen, but in the absence of actual data in the form of brain imaging, I remain unconvinced. I’m annoying that way.

  5. July 22nd, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    a daughter's mother says:

    I don’t get why listening with the left ear is annoying, and yes, that’s even after reading everything posted above about brain function. I’m left-handed and left-eared. Never considered anything but that I listen / hear better that way when it’s via only one ear. I hear voices, music, traffic, etc. with both ears just fine, so I expect both have their use, else why have two? What’s the beef?

    More particularly, given your assumptions about how it translates into brain processing, just what about that bugs you and why?

  6. July 22nd, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Barn Owl: And thus, people can and do actually hear langauge wiht both ears. That is not disputed. But what is also not disputed is that people have contra-lateral preference for hearing … in phone use, in thrusting an ear forward to hear something important, etc. etc., that seems to correlate with liberalized processing. Also, the lateralization of language as you describe is best described as “mostly” and “typical” and certainly does not apply to everyone (though to most people). This man’s reverse lateralization which I infer is very very annoying.

    You don’t have be convinced that I’m right. I simply am right. What you need to do is to adjust your thinking about language function to explain the widely reported observation!

    ADM: Well, clearly it isn’t really annoying. It is just that the guy is so annoying in every other way that I thought I’d also be annoyed at that.

  7. July 22nd, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    And by liberalized (spell checker!) I mean lateralized!!!!

  8. July 22nd, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    Psst, Greg…you’re an admin. You have edit privileges on comments.

  9. July 22nd, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    Barn Owl says:

    But “liberalized processing” is teh funniez! Don’t edit it away! I have to perform liberalized processing every day – else the conservative religiocracy patriarchal crap I hear all day at work would make my head explode.

    I agree that people have a preference for which ear they “put forward” or hold the phone to, but I remain unconvinced that this has anything causal to do with preferential language processing and targeting in cortical areas, whether Area 22, primary auditory, or various association regions.

  10. July 23rd, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    a mother's daughter says:

    OK, it’s spillover. Got it. You over-reacted. Got it. But I’m still trying to figure out how your assumptions about which part of his brain he was using to listen has anything to do with anything?

  11. July 24th, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Bob Calder says:

    Greg,
    Maybe he’s deaf on one side.
    AND he’s annoying.

SEO Powered by Platinum SEO from Techblissonline