An amazing thing happened at my fitness center the other day.
We were all working out when the power briefly went out and then flickered back on.
The lights returned to brightness, but the television sets were black. Most importantly, the music that had been rippling from the speakers overhead was silenced.
The quiet was eerie. It was also nice. Everyone returned to lifting weights without the hits from the 1980s, 1990s and today.
It got me wondering. Why does our society seem to feel the need to have music playing no matter where we go?
You walk into a store, there's music. You sit down at a restaurant, there's music. You get your hair cut, there's music. You walk into a hotel lobby, there's music.
In fact, when you walk into a library or a bank and there isn't music, it's almost stunningly quiet.
Over the next couple days, I started to notice the music that was playing when I walked into a building.
At Sports Basement in Ygnacio Plaza, the song "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye was playing... pretty loudly.
At Fitness 19, Kelly Clarkson was belting out "What Doesn't Kill You."
At a downtown Starbucks, I ordered a decaf coffee to the sounds of U2.
I traveled to the Countrywood shopping center.
Panera Bread had some quieter, almost symphonic melody, but it was music nonetheless.
I thought I heard songs at Jamba Juice, but the blenders were so loud I couldn't tell for sure.
Noah's Bagels really blasts their tunes. I mean, "Middle of the Road" by The Pretenders is a classic 1980s tune, but I don't need Chrisse Hynde belting out that melody while I'm ordering a bottle of vitamin water. I've actually asked the folks at Noah's more than once to please turn down their sound system.
This phenomenon isn't restricted to Walnut Creek. At a Subway in Livermore, I was treated to Green Day and Bruno Mars, among others, while I ate a sandwich.
Now, don't get me wrong. I love music. I play it in my car all the time. I tap my foot. I bob my head. I sing in my off-key voice when no one else is around. I even have a drum set in my garage.
But I don't understand why we need music everywhere. I am baffled every time I see someone running with headsets on. I love the tranquility of a run. Why would I want to spoil it with outside noise wrapped around my ears?
Perhaps this has grown out of the Baby Boomers' 1960s upbringing, when music was such an important part of our lives.
Perhaps it's because we're all afraid we might have to strike up a conversation if the building we're in is quiet.
There are places where music makes sense. It fits in some retail outlets.
But do we need it virtually everywhere? What is wrong with a little ambient noise and the solitude to sip a cup of coffee and just listen to what's around you.