For an indefinite amount of time there has been a persistent, high-pitched noise of unknown origins echoing throughout the main floor of the VICE office. Every day, I come into work, settle in at my desk, and expect to be greeted by the shrill sound. It's like a trapped dolphin, or an employee from VICE Labs—our resident pranksters who sometimes, somewhat annoyingly, dress up in green screen suits and do...something, or other times secretively videotape the rest of the staff so that they can turn our most unflattering moments into subsidiary content for the TV channel—perched in a lofty hiding place with a kazoo in one hand and a camera in another. It's driving me crazy.
My fellow Broadly staffers are faring worse, perhaps. For the first few minutes of work, The Sound usually dominates conversation. Today, Callie seemed particularly over it. As a non-sequitur, as soon as she walked in, she intimated a threat of violence if The Sound happened one more time. Right after, it did. Then it happened again, and again, and again. Seemingly, it was coming from the elevator shaft next to the copy room. But it also could be emanating from the other elevator opposite of it—or the back of the editorial floor near the emergency exit.
Read more: Does VICE Have a Bro Culture?
"It's extremely upsetting every time. You can't get used to it because for hours or even days it will go away and then some mornings it will go, sporadically but regularly, until lunch," my coworker Lauren said, characterizing the severe impact that The Sound has had on our overall mental health. "It's extremely volatile, and not knowing the source is traumatizing."
My other colleague, Diana, declined to comment on the record for this article.
As we discussed it, The Sound did another little faint, soprano beep, and we looked around, helpless. But then there was a shift; our trauma and fear became righteous anger. We realized we were not just victims: We have the power of journalism. And, like our muckraking forebears or Edward Snowden, the pure motives of truth-seeking called to us. With that, I launched an investigation.
It's possible we are being gaslit by our male coworkers.
I sent our office manager Rosie McNeel, who knows everything about everything, an email inquiring into The Sound. Surprisingly, she had no idea what I was talking about. Further, I learned that no one had previously complained about the overbearing disturbance. Which is absurd!
Lauren, not usually one for conspiracies, had some theories about why the sharp, sliding whistle-like noise was bothering the Broadly staff more than most. "It's possible we are being gaslit by our male coworkers," she mused. "Maybe we are like dogs and can hear frequencies they can't."
Conspiracy theories aside, here's what we know for sure—the cold hard facts, as I get them:
The Sound is only on the editorial floor. Maybe.
When I went into the lobby it could not be heard. While in the lobby, I noticed a colleague who works in the basement and I casually asked her about the noise. She looked at me incredulously. Helpfully, though, she incidentally gave me a rough time stamp. According to her estimations, since she moved from the editorial floor to the basement about two months ago—and has never heard the sound—it must have started after that.
However, unhelpfully, another coworker on the basement level said he has not heard The Sound but it's possible that he has. "Maybe, idk," he explained over Gchat. "The AC is super loud, so that kind of overpowers it. There is a high-pitched aspect to it, but it's, like, overwhelmingly white noise." This is definitely something to consider.
I also found out that you can hear The Sound inside the bathroom that's near the editorial rows. All appears to be quiet upstairs (where they also happen to have the best snacks).
We're not alone.
According to a source at VICE proper, located on the same floor that we are, Lauren's gaslighting theory is incorrect. I mentioned The Sound to him and he immediately knew what I was referring to. (I am assuming his acknowledgement of the awful screech is not, in fact, part of the gaslighting.) He also had crucial intel: Apparently, someone who does maintenance for the building has been aware of The Sound for a while and thinks that it's coming from the elevator. My source saw the unnamed maintenance guy "standing [in front of the elevator], just looking at it super puzzled."
Bingo, I thought. Find the maintenance guy, solve the mystery. Hell yeah. However, he could reasonably be any white guy who works here: "He's the guy with the beard. He's kind of like a skater dude," my source said. My source recommended I check the mail room.
The Suspects: The Elevator or the AC Fan.
The elevator theory is strong, but there's potentially another offender. In response to my earlier email, our office manager speculated that The Sound is coming from the fan power box of the AC, as "something similar has happened in areas in the past." She sent someone to our floor to "get a video" of the noise and I asked to be updated as updates occur.
Following up on the hot tip from my VICE source, I trekked all the way down to the mail room in the basement. It was shockingly easy to spot the skater guy with the hat, Jason Favreau, who is an office assistant. And indeed, all my answers did lie with him. Jason is also the guy who was instructed to get a video of the fan noise. When I asked him about The Sound, he told me that it was so faint he couldn't even record it to send to the manufacturer, referring to the AC fan. This was certainly different from The Sound that I was experiencing, which was violently loud. "Wait," he asked, "this sound?" He showed me a video of the elevator creaking and screeching in that familiar way.
As it turns out, there are two sounds: one faint, coming from the AC fan, and one loud, coming from the elevator. This is why it seems like there is one oscillating noise coming from everywhere. Jason, the true hero of this story, said he brought in an elevator maintenance crew at one point but the noise mysteriously did not manifest while they were here, as is its nature. But, thanks to me, the other true hero of this story, and my brave reporting, they should be back again to fix it. Presumably, the fan will be fixed too. For now, we must wear headphones.