Grandma & Grandpa's Farm

Monday, June 16, 2008

Grumpy Old Man - A Few Moments of Quiet

Soundly Silent

How long since it was actually quiet around you? I mean quiet without the hum of a computer fan or furnace; without the sound of someone opening or slamming a door; without the sound of a car or plane; without the sound of people yelling or talking; without a cell phone or telephone ringing; without TV or music playing - how long has it been since you were alone with your thoughts? I am sitting here on a moderately quiet morning in a small city and while keeping in mind I am feeling a bit sensitive to noise, I am noticing that it just really isn't that quiet a morning and I wonder when the last time I was in a truly quiet situation?

I think that for most of us, even the times that we consider quiet, there really is a cacophony of sound. Many of us chose to blanket ourselves in other noises to insulate ourselves from it whether it is with music or the background noise of TV or radio talkshow. I sometimes wonder if I am no longer suited to the city, have wondered if I am not suited to suite living in an apartment.

I know that it is not quiet in the country either, at least now or for a long while. If you live in a agricultural area there are different sounds and I have seen that played up on some comedy movies where people have moved ot the country for peace and quiet only to discover farm tractors, chain saws, trucks, highway and rural road traffic along with all the bleats, moos, whinnies (but not poohs). Getting into the other rural areas and you are more likely to hear the chain saws and wood clearing and cutting equipment as well as other machinery in the bush. Even if you do get farther away it seems there are always cars, boats, trains, or plains. Perhaps the quieter it gets the more our ears search for annoying sounds? That was a theory I would go by. Though I did read an interesting article about "The Last Quiet Place" which talks about the efforts of Gordon Hempton to have a spot in Washington's Olympic Peninsula declared as protected as one of the last actual quiet places in, there being perhaps just 3 in Washington state and a dozen in the lower 48 states. I wouldn't have a clue how that relates to Canada with our slightly larger open spaces.

Gordon Hempton records those sounds-of-nature CD's and defines a "silent place" as one where you can experience regular intervals of at least fifteen minutes where no man-made sounds can be heard. He mentions where ambient noise can be as low as 23.5 decibels "the volume of a pine nut dropping onto damp moss twenty feet away."

Now I don't mind some noise and welcome some. But sometimes it seems that one doesn't stop before the next begins. One person powerwashing, another starts using an air wrench on his car, the next cranks up the base on their stereo, then someone starts yelling... or was that last one me? I understand the need to get things done, but with everything, weekdays people work and work needs to get done, then Saturday comes and work needs to get done that you can't do weekdays because you are working, and then Sunday comes and... well Sunday just isn't important to many people anymore so there is no day of rest then either. So there simply is no morning when you can get away from hammering, sawing, mowing, or someone who has decided his little econocar has to sound like a 1964 freightliner! I can't wait 'til the day they start selling special sound systems for hybrid cars which create motor noises to make them sound like 70's muscle cars without mufflers.

...well that last one was an idea of mine actually. Not for hybrid cars, but because I was so frustrated with the loud cars and I wanted a car that was totally quiet, but had instead large speakers and a special effects sound system on board so that I could pump out whatever vehicle sound I wanted from model-T to airliner at take-off and do that ant next to full volume. So when someone with overloud muffler on car or bike, or overloud music pulled up beside me at a light I could flip the knob to 747 and take off.

Still, a morning like this morning... one neighbour power washing her deck (a lower floor apartment below my bedroom window), other neighbours who for some reason can't shut a door or cabinet or toolbox but have to slam it, then several "bikes", and many folk who simply have to slam their tool boxes and barbecues shut instead of close them.

I could just turn up my music to drown out the noises like others do, but it gives me a headache to turn my music up louder than the volume I like to listen to it at. I am also not comfortable with earplugs. Perhaps I can learn to live with hearphone type sound blockers? I have never found them very good at blocking sound, just deadening it in an aggravating way. Maybe I should have made this another of my "Grumpy Old Man" articles? I just didn't want to seem so grumpy. I guess I shall...

~ Darrell


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