But the damage was done. The gentlemanly sport of golf suffered an embarrassing scandal, and a chastened CBS Sports had to go on to something less obvious, like dubbing swear words among the fans at basketball games. And why? Ambience, that's why.

How many crimes have been committed in the name of ambience? I'm guessing it's nowhere near the number committed in the name of rhetorical questions, but, still, it's got to be pretty high.

Thanks to ambience, even the single life isn't what it used to be. I heard a story on National Public Radio about a German man who recorded a compact disc of everyday household sounds intended to give those who live alone the impression of having someone else in the house. The disc is called Alone No More. Never mind that, in reality, you are alone and that putting on a CD of sounds to pretend that you're not would only remind you of that. But if you want to buck reality and try to make believe for a few minutes, just play the track titled "Putting the Weekly Shopping Away," which is the sound of someone walking into your apartment and putting away the groceries in the refrigerator and pantry, or "Rather Read and Have a Smoke," a quiet piece of a cigarette being lit and smoked while pages are turned. "We're all getting very much used to living with virtual things," Bernd Klosterfelde, who made the CD after his divorce, told NPR. "Why not a virtual apartment?"

Maybe they can come up with a CD for long-married couples that makes it seem that they're actually single. Now that would be a useful fantasy. Hmmm, now that I think of it, there are lots of useful applications for the ambient life. How about a CD of whispering voices in cubicles for people who leave the corporate world to become self-employed and miss the back-stabbing intrigue, er, camaraderie? Or a device that awakens us in the morning to the smell of bacon and eggs, with coffee as background? You know those pesky won't-leave guests at your dinner parties? Just crank up the sounds and smells of someone throwing up; that should roust 'em outta there. Let's say you miss the sound of your parents arguing. Get a CD of them screaming at each other, and, voilà: "Ahh, sounds like home."