Huh? Sorry? What? Can’t Hear You

Muting the microphones, in that last presidential debate, turned out to be a good idea, I think.

But it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that muting the mics would solve the problem of candidates interrupting and talking over each other. 

If Trump had understood the basics of how sound travels, he might have shouted his interruptions even without having a live mic. The television audience would have heard him in the background of Biden’s answers — and just think how unnerving it could have been for Biden himself! 

Personally, I felt that a mic-cutoff strategy was inadequate, and what we really needed was to put each candidate in a soundproof clear-plexiglass booth. 

Yes, in the runup to the debate, a member of the President’s staff might have sneaked him the information about how sound travels — in which case, the President might have taken to pounding his skull against the plexiglass, so at the very least there would be a thud thud thud  in the background during Biden’s answers. 

But my soundproof clear-plexiglass booth setup would have an additional advantage: With each interruption, the moderator could cut off a little more of the offending candidate’s oxygen. 

It is possible that politicians these days are like sci-fi aliens that don’t really need oxygen; but if they do  need oxygen, then an oxygen-cutoff system could be even more effective than a mic-cutoff system. 

At what point would either candidate stop screaming and pounding on the plexiglass? For those who have come to abhor the ghastly spectacle of presidential politics, such a vision is delicious.

Alas, we cannot bring mic-cutoff into our personal lives. 

  • There is no mic-cutoff at the Ipswich Town Meeting. (Imagine how much shorter our most recent five-hour marathon might have been with mic-cutoff.) 
  • There is no mic-cutoff at Select Board meetings on Monday evenings.
  • Today at Market Basket, I could not cut off the mic of the eager youngster bagging my groceries. (The youngster was not wearing a mic; he was just doing real-world chattering.)
  • If you’re online on your laptop, you can turn off the audio; but then you’re going to lie awake in the middle of the night, wondering what that guy with the rabbit and the corkscrew was saying.
  • You cannot cut off the mic on your teenager. You can, but there will still be a college bill.
  • You cannot cut off the mic on your neighbor. There is no technology, at least not yet, that supersedes the reality of the person who lives next door to you. 
  • You can mute your television, but while you’re lipreading the people on the screen, your decaf is getting cold.
  • You cannot cut off the mic on your spouse or partner. I mean really. Don’t stop listening to this person. This is the person who sits on the other seat of your life teeter-totter. Even if they annoy you, you should keep listening to them, because sooner or later they will say something that you’ll wish you had taken into consideration, before those guys came and carted off your furniture.


Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Why? Because it’s so quiet. Follow Doug at DougBrendel.com.

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