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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Uneasy riders

The day the music died:

Hundreds of Harley-Davidson employees learned through a memo last week that their radios and music being piped onto the factory floor would be kaput by Wednesday -- part of a continuous effort to improve safety.

No headphones. No headbanging. No rock ';n' roll.

Just the sound of motorcycles being made. It's the sweet sound of productivity for a Fortune 500 firm whose earnings have made a comeback since an organization-wide restructuring began in 2009.

But it wasn't one incident in particular that made them "stop the music," as singer Rihanna says.

"It's a distraction," said Maripat Blankenheim, director of external communications for Harley. "It's really important for people - no matter what they do - to be focused on what they do."

Music as a distraction? I think you could make a good case that it actually increases productivity -- charms to soothe the savage breast and all that -- but I can see the point of nixing single-source music. What if I want to hear country, and the rest of the staff votes for rock 'n' roll? That's why earphones were invented. I see people around the office occasionally wearing them, nodding their heads as they type away. Are we really going to see better stories if we make them unplug the music?

As an aside, one of the changes I've noticed as I've gotten older is that "background music" has become less important to me. I used to have music going on almost all the time, no matter what else I was doing. Now, not so much. I even usually find myself turning to talk rather than music on the radio when I'm driving.

No music at a Harley-Davidson plant? Wow. Born to be mild, huh?