The Twelve Commandments of Stuff: Commandment the Second

It isnt hard. And actually, this should be commandment number one, except for the the fact that the birthday thing is both most important Right Now, and also universal. But this one is the most important all the rest of the time – and oh my lord, it makes me grumpy

Commandment the Second

Though shalt not eat ANYTHING loud near me. Mainly, although not exclusively, apples. Seriously, people.

I dont know why it is – but it drives me insane. I seem to hear things fifty times louder than other people. Its ridiculous. Someone takes the first bite of their mid-morning fruit half way across the floor, and my ears prick up, I sit up in my seat like a meercat, blue eyes, poking lasers into the back of their thick little apple-eating necks.

Oh! I forgot! Do you mind?
They say.

Nonono I say, Carry on. Dont let me stop you. Its my silly problem, I just have to get over it. Carry on.

And then I sit there. Comically, hideously, physically affected by the noise, eyes crossing, clinging onto the desk edge with my fingernails, making little mini-racehorse noises (believe me, it makes sense in person; Ive just sat here for five minutes imagining someone was eating an apple in front of me and trying to work out how best to describe the resulting noise) and kind of wishing the building would suddenly list to one side and theyd roll on their rolly chairs straight out of the damn window.

The thing is – of course they should eat their bloody apple/carrot/bottomless bag of crisps; it IS my stupid problem, and I should just learn to deal, and getthefuck over it. Hell, I eat at my desk, why shouldnt they. No, of course they should, logically, and there should be no problem with it. I mean, Im sure I do plenty that drives them nuts.

Ive got to the point now where I turn down meetings over lunch because, in a crowded restaurant or canteen, I can stare as hard as I want at whoever Im talking to about whatever the exciting project is, but all I can hear is the sound of a hundred people talking, and cutlery crashing and I cant concentrate on a word that they say, let alone thinking of any of my own to add.

On buses, I send my beloved into fits of laughter. Hell be talking to me about something exciting, and scintilating, like the fact that were suddenly moving house in about three weeks and neither of us can quite work out how that happened, and hell notice that Ive gone a bit quiet and

WOAH! Ive just looked down at my elbow, the inside of my elbow (my inbow?) where they took the tiny little bit of blood today and my goodness thats a bruise and a half. Blimey, Id make a an appalling heroin addict. Id be all hurty and purple and polka dottish, all the time. Well thats something to bear in mind. Where was I?

and look at me, and hell have to clasp a hand to his mouth to smother the snuffle, because someone, somewhere, generally in the seat right in front of me, is eating an apple, and Im looking at them, unabashed, and completely unintentionally, with this mixture of absolute repulsion and disbelief.

He says he can see a thought bubble coming out of my head, saying, in spiky writing Why are you doing that? Why are you doing that HERE? Dont you KNOW what noise you are making? Are you mad? Are you stupid?, until I cave in and have to put my earphones in, no matter how unsociable that might be. Hell, I can lipread well enough. And he seems to be able to read my mind – so whats the difference?

Ive had this for years. And Ive met other people who have it too, honest I have. Really. And I know it sounds extreme, but believe me, it hurts – well not hurts hurts. But it really, really puts me on edge. And I hate, hate, hate, hate HATE it.

Oh thou shalt not eat loud things around me. Especially, but not exclusively, apples. Seriously, people. Or Ill come over there and kick you in the knees.