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Christmas-Music-Free Zone

Posted: December 2, 2013, 4:00 p.m. EDT


By Elizabeth Creith

As soon as the trick-or-treaters packed up their loot bags and set to the serious business of making November one long sugar high, that’s when the Christmas stuff began to appear in the stores. It was subtle at first—a boxed-up artificial tree here, a suggestion of colored outdoor lights there. But now it’s in full swing, and the swingiest part of it is the inevitable and overwhelming omnipresence of the seasonal soundtrack. Yes, every store fills the air with Bing or Frank or the Pogues or some smooth-as-10-W-30 choir belting or crooning the standards on a 90-minute loop tape, all day long.

That is, every store except for one.

Animalia is a Christmas-music-free zone.

It’s not that we don’t like Christmas music. In fact, I love quite a bit of it, and I am delighted to announce that the pieces I particularly love will never make the Top 40 in the Retail Background Music category. Most of them are, well, old and unfashionable, and quite a few of them are really old, like Middle English old, and some of them are even in Latin and sung by monks, or at least men’s choirs pretending to be monks. David is a fan of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s rendition of "Oh, Holy Night.”

Christmas Music
Animalia is one pet retail store where you won't hear Christmas music playing this year. Shutterstock/Yu Lan

Screaming electric guitars do not constitute soothing shopping music, and I’m pretty sure the Gregorian chant and medieval falsettos would have customers running out the door, too. But that’s not the real reason we’re Christmas music free. The real reason is sanity—ours and the animals’.

I’ve worked in department stores where the 90-minute Christmas loop tape was a permanent fixture. During an eight-hour shift every employee heard every song often enough to memorize the lyrics, the harmony and the lead singer’s breathing rhythm. By the end of the day one we had multiple earworms. By the end of the first week our eyelids twitched in rhythm with the beat and our pulses, should anyone have had a stethoscope handy, were all going "pa-rum-pa-pum-pum.” My bet is that whoever wrote "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” had been in retail for one too many Christmases.

If people, who at least understand the words, respond like that, I would hate to think of what it does to the stress levels of animals, for which it’s only so much noise. (Newsflash! Your beardie doesn’t care whether you play Bach or Nine Inch Nails. Mostly he wants you to stop.)

There’s also the ambient noise level in the store itself to consider. Pet stores might be the noisiest stores in retail, barring music stores. We probably wouldn’t even hear the rising of the sun and the running of the deer over the burbling of the filters and the screaming of the birds. Bit of a wasted effort, really.

And speaking of birds, Jack responds to unusual noises with his "I’m the Big Kahuna cockatoo around here, you better believe it!” scream. As if cycling "The Little Drummer Boy” through my head six or eight times a day wouldn’t be enough to make me want to stab myself in the eye with a sprig of holly, or hang myself with a noose of sparkly ribbon.

I believe David and I discussed the playing of Christmas music in the very first year of business. The discussion went something like this:

"Should we..?”

"Absolutely not!”

"Okay, I’m cool with that.”

So come all ye fretful, zoned-out by Christmas earworms. Until approximately 3:00 p.m. December 24, 2013, we are the quietest store in town. Merry Christmas.

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