I’ve had the misfortune to work in “war rooms” (no fighting allowed!) and “open plans” before, and for some reason I always think of this, for a moment before the noise distracts me:
Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though. April for
instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in
that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-
year-old son, Harrison, away.
It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn’t think about it very
hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t
think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his
intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his
ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a
government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would
send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair
advantage of their brains.
George and Hazel were watching television. There were tears on Hazel’s
cheeks, but she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about.
On the television screen were ballerinas.
A buzzer sounded in George’s head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits
from a burglar alarm.
—Kurt Vonnegut, “Harrison Bergeron” (1961)