THE BLOG

I'm With Stupid: The Real Reason Cows Don't Get Earworms

05/01/2015 04:33 pm ET | Updated May 01, 2016

Apparently, I gotta start chewing more gum, and that's a problem because I'm not a big gum fan.

Oh, I had my day. Back when I was a kid, I could chew Lenny Dykstra-sized pinches of Big League Chew and blow Bubble Yum bubbles bigger than my head, despite the constant threat of spider eggs in the gum.

Yep, I could chew with the best of them, but those days are gone. I almost never chew anymore, generally preferring mints or doughnuts as breath fresheners now that I'm a grown-up.

However, I have a problem, and evidently chewing gum is the solution.

No, my problem isn't bad breath, smarty pants. My problem is earworms, those insidious tunes that get stuck in your head and repeat themselves over and over and over until you're completely distracted and want to strangle Carly Rae Jepsen, even though you don't have a clue who she is.

We all get earworms, and we all have our own Carly Rae Jepsens to strangle. I understand that. But with me, earworms are on a whole other level due to my one special power, the one thing I do better than anyone else, and that's song lyrics.

For you see, I have what I call a phonographic memory. That means that I can remember the lyrics to pretty much every song I've ever heard, but I can't remember someone's name literally five seconds after I meet them.

It's honestly this bad: I was riding a chairlift this past winter with another single, and I asked the guy his name. He told me. I repeated it to make sure I wouldn't forget it, and by the time I'd said, "I'm Todd. Nice to meet you," I had already forgotten it. (I think the guy's name might have been Aaron, but I also think that's because I don't really care very much, and Aaron was the first name I came up with alphabetically.)

I'm not kidding. Somebody could say, "Todd, this is Fred. Fred, this is Todd. Todd, what's his name?" and I would have no idea. But meanwhile, I can remember every word to "Karma Chameleon" or some other crappy song I haven't heard since 1983.

It's kind of ridiculous. I'm not exaggerating when I say that the jukebox in my head probably contains more than a thousand songs. I'm not bragging, either; trust me on that. I would so much prefer that all that space in my brain were being used for more constructive purposes, like earning a living, but no; I'm stuck with song lyrics.

So anyway, when I get an earworm, you can rest assured that it is as deeply embedded, irritating and distracting as any worm that ever infested any ear. I mean, it gets stuck in my cranium and it won't get out.

In the past, I've always fought earworms by trying to drown them out with better songs from my mental jukebox -- essentially replacing one earworm with another -- but that doesn't always work. It's no problem for me to bring up something like "Sweet Home Alabama," but unfortunately, I've found that good music doesn't seem to have the sticking power of insipid pop ditties.

That's why I have to start chewing gum again. According to a study published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, chewing gum can significantly reduce how often you think about songs and how often they play in your head after you listen to them.

Obviously, that's good news for everyone who gets songs stuck in their head, which is basically everyone, but I don't know if it's great news for me. It'll be nice to quell earworms, sure, but I don't know if I'm ready to get back in the chewing game. I thought I'd left my past behind me. I guess I was wrong. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave, right?

So I'll be getting sucked back into the game, and I imagine lots of other ex-chewers will, as well -- maybe even some of my old rivals. But before we all start chewing our way to inner peace, I'll leave you with a note of caution.

I don't know about you, but one of the worst earworm times for me is as I'm trying to fall asleep. Please, people, don't chew gum in bed. You could choke and die. Even worse, you could get gum in your hair and have to get it out with peanut butter.

Todd Hartley thinks now would be a great time for a montage of Todd Hartley practicing chewing. To read more or leave a comment, please visit zerobudget.net.