In an earlier era, it amused us when, upon entering an elevator, we seemed to become stars of our own TV show. Glamorous background music accompanied us to our destination floor. An outstanding feature of this music was that it had been synthesized from its original form to a sort of sappy, easy listening arrangement of violins and muted horns. When you stepped out of the elevator, the doors closed, and the music faded.

How we laughed at elevator music! Sure, at some level we recognized it as creepy, but it wasn’t exactly Big Brother. It was more like “Baby Brother.”

We were so naïve.

Is there anyone in Lake Highlands who is unaware of the new shingles vaccine?

If so, I envy you. Through the soundtrack of life, I can’t avoid hearing about the potential agonizing pain of shingles, and the merciful new availability of a vaccine, while I am trying to read the labels on raisin bran.  Unfortunately, when I’m grocery shopping I am really, seriously, completely and irrevocably not in the mood to think about shingles. In fact, I vow that if I ever get a shingles vaccine, I will never purchase it from the pharmacy of the grocery store that bombards me with the unappetizing message repeatedly while I’m planning my weekly menu.

I will not mention the name of the store. If you have heard the message, then, like me, you have suffered more than enough already from shingles.

One reason elevator music used to seem so eerie was because it was overtly soothing, like a kind of auditory soma. Today, however, there is no intention of tranquilizing the listeners. Now the music is sliced and diced to match our age, gender and other demographics depending on what we are supposed to be buying wherever we find ourselves.

Guitars twang, Little Richard performs at top voice. Or the Stones. Or the BeeGees or Bruce Springsteen or Huey Lewis or Ricky Martin.

The first time Amy Winehouse’s voice amazed me, I was in the ladies’ room of a local restaurant. Maybe it’s OK that this association has been forever seared into my brain, but this only highlights the larger problem with the never-ceasing soundtrack.

I suspect that Christmas music, for example, isn’t actually annoying, but most people can’t tell anymore.

This is because the holiday soundtrack has been hijacked and redistributed by Big Brother, who never really got over his childhood in the elevator.

So when I’m shopping for pumpkins (and trying to forget about the threat of shingles) doggone it if some jolly music doesn’t seep into my consciousness.

My teeth clench, my shoulders tighten, and I experience the usual lamentation about the holidays coming too soon and retail pushing too early. I resist the garish suggestion that it’s time to think about gift shopping, even before that pumpkin is in my cart.

Most of the holiday music we hear is not in our homes or at school concerts or church pageants. It seems, in fact, to have no other purpose than to nag us into shopping. By the time we hear the music at the pageant or the school concert, any charm it once had has expired for the year.

But there is hope via technology. You probably thought that all those people walking around listening to iPods and talking on cell phones are victims of over-stimulation, but I have another take on it.

People with personal soundtracks are the first wave of rebels against the soundtrack of life.

Message to Big Brother: I have loaded white noise onto my iPod, and I intend to use it.

Ellen Raff, a neighborhood resident, writes a monthly opinion column about neighborhood issues. Her opinions are not necessarily those of the Advocate or its management. Send comments and ideas to her at 6301 Gaston, Suite 820, Dallas 75214; FAX to 214.823.8866; or e-mail