I am The Niggle
And I’m here to say
I bore in your skull
Every hour of the day
You wanna live your life?
You wanna get away?
I’m gonna stalk you down
I’m gonna make you pay
I’m a patient guy
I got plenty o’ time
No matter how long it takes
I’m gonna own your mind
Introducing my good buddy The Niggle. He’s an ornery rambunctious sort. Invisible and sneaky, at any given moment in time there are literally thousands of him latched on tight, gnawing at our skulls, always desperately trying to get in. Fun stuff, huh?
The Niggle is the price we pay for this modern life. He hangs on dearly when we look around and ask, “What gives? Is this all there is?”
He’s the background highway noise that permeates our fancy homes. A little drill bit of omnipresent pressure that pushes us one step closer to the edge. Our brains may have long since given up and deemed those road sounds as mere “white noise,” but even if we’re no longer conscious of it, it’s always there, chipping away. Chip, chip, chip.
The dictionary describes a niggle as something that causes “slight but persistent annoyance, discomfort, or anxiety.” But, to me, he’s a modern day superhero of goodness and fun.
What other forms does this little devil take? Read on. He might even be working through this very blog post.
What is it that bores into your head? The omnipresent sound of a television screaming persuasion attempts in the background? The buzzing of airplanes overhead?
Your neighbor’s lawn mower at 6:50 in the morning? His table saw at 11:27 at night?
Is it the spam that attacks, through email, you and your computer 24 hours a day? The full-color glossy ads in your mailbox? The door-to-door meat/seafood salesman who literally brings the evil to your front door?
It’s the 24/7/365 full court attack of life. It’s on. Like Donkey Kong. And it has no off switch.
The fake back taxes notice? The phishing that says you have an unpaid ticket?
We’re not talking about actual acts of physical violence or extreme crime. That falls in a different category. The Niggle is that which fills those in-between cracks. When The Niggle is doing his job we’re constantly on edge, without ever really knowing why, distrusting everyone with a suspicious eye. The Niggle sows discontent.
Why do we build our homes and roads so close together? We love the internal combustion engine. The arrangement made some developer a boatload of money. Meanwhile the cars with bad mufflers, motorcycles optimized to produce maximum sound, and commercial vehicles gear jamming and engine braking literally provide the background soundtracks of our lives.
The Niggle is a great leader. He’s able to encourage his myriad of minions to do his bidding. Perhaps they take the form of neighbors standing not far outside your window and literally screaming at the top of their lungs. For hours at a time. The Niggle watches and is pleased.
Your cell phone disconnects in the middle of a call for the 42nd time? Do you feel the invisible hand of The Niggle? He’s devious.
The pressure builds.
You click something on your computer. The loading animation spins and spins. Everything takes longer, everything is slower. The Niggle beams.
You gradually become aware you have a headache. It’s drilling in your head. Then, you gradually become aware that off in the distance, just loud enough to register in your subconscious hearing, a car alarm has been bleating for the last 90 minutes.
Bzzzt! Bzzzt! Bzzzt! Bzzzt!
As if from outside your own body you see your flesh twitch in synchronous time with those bleats. You weren’t even aware this was taking place.
It’s only one step. Just one step. A little bigger portion of your own mind is no longer subject to your own control. It just takes one step after another. The Niggle grins in delight.
You go to the store. You pick out an item. The checker doesn’t smile, say hello or acknowledge your existence in any way. The Niggle is working on him, too. The price scanner rings up the wrong amount, and not in your favor. The Niggle yells, “Wee!” You bring the item home, open it, and use it for the very first time. It breaks apart in your hands. The Niggle has an orgasm.
One step, one step, one step closer.
You go to your job at the trendy web shopping company’s warehouse. They strap a computerized GPS timer to your body and command you to fly like the wind picking their items. You are under the control of a computerized supervisor. You are given 29 minutes and 59 seconds for your 30-minute lunch. You are told that you can use the bathroom but it may cost you your job if you can’t keep your arbitrarily set numbers up. The Niggle is there in the middle, dancing his jig.
Or maybe you go to another type of job where, for minimum wage, where you are forced to work before punching in and again after punching out. Working for free because a small manager in a small-minded corporation that believes in profits over people is threatening you with termination if you don’t comply. They don’t even realize that it’s The Niggle controlling their actions, too. He’s an equally opportunity destroyer.
Then, sometime months or years down the road, you achieve a moment of clarity and suddenly find yourself aware. Aware of yourself and aware of your surroundings. It’s like being born for the second time. You are shocked to discover you are holding a knife and are covered in blood.
You’re so turned around you don’t even know what happened much less how or why.
The Niggle did his job well.