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Some Mysteries in Life Can

Tuesday, July 16 2002

Some mysteries in life can never be explained. Some, you’d like to leave unexplained to prolong the incomprehensible impossibility of the mystery.

Take, for example, the phenomenom I call sound portals. A stupid name for a greatly confusing natural (or unnatural) condition. I’d officialized the name before coming up with something more flashy like Condensed Aural Tube of Portability.

I had my own office on one side of the building, and a coworker, Tony, had an office on the opposite far end of the building. The distance was about twenty to thirty yards, and between our offices were some cubes, and some other corners and a pillar here and there. It wasn’t exactly a straight line between our office doors as there were obstacles in between.

When Tony would play music over his desktop speakers, I could hear every note as if I were wearing headphones. After mentioning to him that he might want to keep the peace by keeping the volume down, he was confused. He invited me to his office and played the music at the volume level he was listening to his music at. It wasn’t loud at all, in fact, it was lower than what I would have considered “safe” in an office environment. Zoiks!

It turns out that I could hear more than just that. Mouse clicks, phone conversations, paper shuffling. Pretty amazing. Between our offices there was a sound portal. Some strange configuration of physical space that encouraged this strange behavior. We’d forgone phone conversations, as we would carry on conversations by just speaking at a normal volume, as if we were in the same room.

Now, at my apartment in Oregon, it has happened again.

I woke up the other night thinking there were several people in my room carrying on a conversation about overdue bills. As I shook the sleep away and began to suspect it was a dream, the realizations that the conversations were indeed very real hit, and my heart took a jump. There were three possibilities: 1.) someone was discussing late fees on the credit card, in my room 2.) ghosts 3.) sound portal.

It turns out the conversation comes from an apartment below me, and the sound goes around a corner somewhere. A tricky feat I’d guess, but I’ve given up on thinking sound is simple and incapable of tricky feats.

Just in case, I now make sure to be quiet in my room, just in case it works both ways.