I am trying to find out how I feel about noise. I discovered a blog about sensitivity to background noise (and related challenges): http://mados.wordpress.com and upon reading that, I tried to organise my own thoughts on noise.
One of my problems with social functions is that I lack a filter. I can't concentrate on what person A is saying because person B is talking to person C. I am afraid that people find me rude if I don't pay attention to what they're saying and therefore I refrain from asking: Sorry what was that, sorry I didn't hear, etc. I struggle to make sense of the about 60 percent of person A's message, that I actually got. And very often the conversation dies because I can't say much more that 'oh' and 'yes', afraid that A has already told me what I am about to ask.
Conversations that are utterly irrelevant to me are easier to ignore, which is why it worked out relatively well when I commuted to work. I usually sat in the quiet section on the train, but if I had to sit in the normal section, I was often (though not always) able to block out irrelevant people's irrelevant phone conversations.
At work, I have my own office. It is quite close to the coffee machine, a common place for office small talk. When my door is open, I can hear everything that is said in the kitchen. And often I forget to work and just sit and listen. In particular if the small talk is relevant for me. I don't really like my door to be closed. To me, it signals: Leave me alone. Being a senior researcher, involved in a lot of projects, I don't think it is OK for me to send such a signal. I also like the interactions with my colleagues, so I am not very happy with a closed door.
During my carrier, I've shared an office numerous times. It has, I think, worked out well most of the times. In particular when my roommate was a quiet, hard-working researcher like myself. I also had great friendships with my roommates, though friendship time tended to increase on behalf of working time. I've shared an office with lovable people that had an interesting personal life, or a work that required lots of telephone conversations. And work related phone talk, as well as personal life related phone talk, tend to occupy my attention. I really liked those people I shared an office with, I am so happy they were in my life. But they disturbed me.
So maybe my first priority should be to have my own office, and create my own space behind a closed door. And maybe not. Because I have other quirks... Temperature and light related quirks. And there are other types of disturbances than office-mates.
The reason why I am thinking so much about this right now is that my workplace is moving. During spring, we are moving into the premises of the institution we recently merged with. Some researchers have to share an office. Because nobody wants to, those that volunteer to share, get first-choice regarding where they want to sit. All offices have glass walls towards the corridor. Some offices have very little daylight.
These are my thoughts: If someone wants to share an office with me, I have a very good chance of getting THE office that I want: On the top floor, with loads of daylight, relatively high temperature, and in the corner, where the visual disturbance of people walking in the corridor outside the glass wall is minimised. I also get the opportunity of developing another great friendship, or at least having a favourite colleague. But I will be disturbed by his or her telephone conversations, and perhaps the friendship time will start eating at the work time.
On the other hand, if I don't opt in on the shared office-first choice option, I have a relatively high risk of ending up in an office where people are walking outside all the time, where I can't see the sky and where it may be cold during winter. But the probability of having my own office is close to 100 %.
My experience with one office-mate is positive (whereas I hated being 3+ in the same office - that was anarchy), but I have become more introvert, more Aspie, and less 'filtered' since last time I shared an office with one person.
Both options have pros and cons, the central question is: what is most important to me?