Get that annoying song out of your head

Mark LundMark LundAnd other clever solutions to everyday dilemmas.

How to Change the Song in Your Head

You've been singing the theme to The Love Boat for hours now, and you're becoming unmoored. If a song is on an unfinished loop, "sing it through all the way, or listen to the entire song, to achieve completion," says James Kellaris, Ph.D., a professor of marketing at the University of Cincinnati, who studies why catchy tunes―called "earworms"―stick in your head. "If you can't remember all the words or how it ends, rewrite the ending. Sometimes appending a Beethoven coda or even just 'Shave and a haircut, two bits' will do the trick."

If you can't banish it, replace it. That works for Ron Dante, one of the lead voices behind the insanely catchy Coke jingle "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing." "I substitute a Beatles song, like 'Help!' or 'Let It Be'―both of which say something about what we need at that moment," he says. If the eraser tune gets lodged in your brain, too, he adds, "listen either to complex music, like Mozart, or unfamiliar music that lacks a hook, like New Age." Check out Regina Spektor's new album "Far" for a completely fresh voice.

How to Change Your Hairdresser

The only thing worse than breaking down over a bad haircut is breaking up with your regular stylist. "The polite thing to do is to let him know you're leaving," says Sue Fox, author of Etiquette for Dummies. If you don't want to call, write a note. And be specific. "Maybe the truth is you can never get in to see him, you need to go to someone less expensive, or you just want a change," Fox says. Whatever the reasons, don't fret too much. "We're tougher than people think," says Manhattan-based hairdresser Oscar Bond. "You're a paying customer―you can do what you want."

Still, Los Angeles stylist Charles Dujic recommends leaving on good terms for practical reasons. "Often it's more of a break than a breakup," he says. "More times than not, clients who leave end up coming back." If they don't, maybe it's just as well. "Sometimes," says New York City hairdresser Todd Bush, "we're just as happy to take a break from a long-term client as you are to take a break from us."

To make your salon treatment last until you find another stylist, use a daily leave-in conditioner.

How to Change Your Cell Phone Carrier

Yes, it's now possible to change cell-phone carriers without changing your number, but don't expect radical improvements. All five major American cellular companies―Cingular, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Nextel―offer similar rates and deals, says James Hood, president of, which covers consumer fraud. Where they vary is in their coverage in certain areas. "Seek out people who get good service―on the street, in the mall―and ask what company they're using," Hood suggests. Before switching, make sure your contract is up or you'll be hit with an early-termination fee, which may be as much as a couple of hundred dollars, says Jennifer Walsh, a spokesperson for Sprint.

For a smooth transition, don't cancel your old account before your new one is activated. "Once you close it," Walsh warns, "your number goes back into a pool, and you can lose it." And don't trust the new company to cancel your old account for you. "Often," Hood says, "they say they'll take care of it, and they just don't."

When you're considering changing carriers, you're in a great position to negotiate a better plan. Be prepared to ask for exactly the features you need to remain a customer. by Amy Spencer

Keep reading: How to get that annoying song out of your head, and solutions to other everyday dilemmas


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