So I have this coworker who is the nicest, sweetest guy in the world but he drives me batty. We have adjacent offices and he makes… noises. Lots of noises. Knuckle rapping and knocking sounds mostly, but sometimes finger snapping, as well as often a repetitive creaking sound that I assume is made by rocking in his office chair.
Sometimes there is also flatulence… I am not sure if he thinks it’s inaudible from 15 feet away? A few days ago he began a new habit: whistling. It was all I could do to not chuck my stapler across the room.
As I said, he’s about one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and in no way is he trying to be deliberately annoying: I think he’s complete unaware of it. He’s kind of a bit of a nervous person, and I suspect these habits are actually stims. I don’t know if he’s on the spectrum or not, but I think stimming is something neurotypical people do too, they just don’t realize that’s what it is. And it’s not like it’s his fault that I am so incredibly hypersensitive to sounds.
Before my big burnout, I was not so sound sensitive and easily distracted – I even sometimes listened to music while I worked. If he made the noises back then, I didn’t notice them. Now, if I don’t have absolute silence, I can’t stay on task. I take in every little thing, every move to, every sound – all jumbled together in a cacophony of overwhelming distraction. The knocking sounds, in particular, cut through my focus and drive me berserk.
Saying something to him would hurt his feelings and make things really awkward, so instead, last year, I asked my boss to order me some noise-canceling headphones.
I found a pair (an off brand, but about a third of the price of the big name ones) that seemed to have good reviews and she got them for me. They helped immensely with not just the one-man band in the next room, but also the noise from the server room beside me, which I hadn’t even consciously realized was making me edgy until the sound was gone.
But then last week, a month out of warranty (of course) they failed. If I turned on the noise canceling, instead of blissful silence I got this weird rhythmic snapping noise in my ears. 😦
My boss said not to worry, we’d replace them, and this time she got me a pair of Bose headphones! They are wonderful: much more comfortable than the last set, and the noise cancelation is phenomenal. The calming effect is on par with my weighted blanket.
I am so grateful to have a job where I can be open about my Autism and not only is it no big deal, but accommodations are made for it, as well as for my health issues. I feel extremely lucky, although sometimes it makes me feel guilty; I wish I’d had this job ten years ago, when I had so much more energy and could have been a much more productive employee.