Of all the varieties of modern pollution, noise is the most insidious.
~ Robert Lacey
- Rain hitting a tin roof
- Paco’s breathing while he sleeps
- Music that I choose to listen to
- Small children laughing
- A waterfall
- Thunder when I’m inside and safe
- Someone speaking softly. It’s a bonus if they are saying something that matters
- Waves crashing against rocks
- Paco’s barking and howling when we’re playing
- The shaking of a martini
- A breeze gentling rustling tree branches and leaves
- The sound of silence
I’m so glad I made this list because until today, I have been thinking that all I wanted to hear was silence.
Noise Gets Worse As My Day Progresses
Ambulance sirens sounding, jack hammers hammering, motorcycles revving, revving and revving their motors, car alarms, banging, smashing, and clanging; after awhile you’re almost certain you are losing your mind.
Having grown up in a big city, I am accustomed to having a great deal of background noise in my everyday life. When I moved to North Carolina to attend college, the sound of silence made me extremely uneasy. I recall turning on a fan, just to hear some sort of sound. I’m long over that. Now, whenever and wherever possible, I prefer quiet. The kind of quiet where you listen for a sound and hear only your own breathing. To be perfectly honest, I rarely get to experience this level of quiet.
I can’t help thinking noise follows me. Here’s an average weekday:
Lately I wake at about 4:15 a.m. It’s the quiet of the early morning that gets me up at this hour. I’m like the Eveready battery, I go, go, go and I stop abruptly when I run out of energy — this tends to happen at around 8:00 p.m.; I stopped fighting it a long time ago. When I wake at 4:15ish, fully recharged, I take Paco for a leashless walk. It’s the only time my neighborhood is quiet. It’s fantastic and I never take this time of the day for granted. There is sometimes a very obnoxious and strange sounding bird singing his morning song, but I pay him no mind (he must move around). Cars occasionally speed by at this hour, going way too fast. I often see a patrol car sitting across from my building, but they don’t seem to mind the speeding. I was once the driver speeding past; now I’m just waking rather than returning home from the club.
A few minutes of this outdoor time and we return to my peaceful apartment. The 90 or so minutes before my gym visit, is the quietest time of the day for me; I savor every second. Add a rare thunderstorm to this mix and I’m happier than I deserve to be.
My walk to the gym is pleasant: stray cats in heat, manual window shutters opening, an occasional clothing line squeaking — none of these sounds are disturbing to me. The gym is almost always a symphony of harsh sounds: weights dropping to the floor, macho men sharing football stories, women laughing about the same men, and shower hollering meant to rise above the running of water. These are sounds I expect to hear; I embrace them because they allow me to exist in the quiet of my thoughts.
When I arrive home after the gym, this is when it all changes. By now, construction workers have arrived at work, trucks dumping stone in the park being renovated are beeping as they back up, four schools filling with boisterous students — ages three to twenty-two, cars stopping and going in traffic, angry horns beeping; all as if to wake us from a restless slumber and they do wake us.
This assault lasts about an hour, followed by several hours of normal traffic and constant construction noise — hammers, saws, generators, the chipping away of wall plaster, working me being way to loud; none of it pleasant.
When the school let out, it gets quite noisy once again. At 7:00 p.m. dog walkers chat outside, but this I don’t mind. At 8:00 p.m., when my neighbors are eating dinner or watching television it is almost as quiet as the morning; not quite, but tolerable and considerate. Weekends in my neighborhood are a different animal altogether; most weekends are luxuriously peaceful.
There are several things I do to avoid or tune out noise: earbuds are fantastic, I close windows and doors to drown it out, I do my outdoor chores during the worst of it, I stay home all day on holidays when it’s peaceful for 24 hours straight, and my bedroom is nearly soundproof when everything is closed. I work hard at keeping noise at bay.
Here’s what I don’t do: yell at the kids from the high school when they gather in front of my building, honk my horn, yell in public unless I have no choice, talk on speaker phone while on public transportation or in a restaurant, screech my car tires, encourage Paco to bark outside, slam down the top of the trash bin, and I never force others to listen to my music.
I have stuck to my recent commitment to hold off on travel for a few months and it has been fantastic. I feel rested, grounded, and I have more money in my pocket. I’m certain Paco is pleased as well. Yes that is Paco wearing his red Sweet Pea harness.
A Compromised Environmental Goal
When I left Maine five years ago, I made a decision to work a little harder on a, rest-of-my-life goal, to reduce my carbon footprint. I’m a climate change believer; although I am only one among billions, I believe all of us, working together, can make a difference. Using public transportation has been challenging here in Portugal lately; therefore, I have been forced to purchase a vehicle. Without outlets anywhere near my condo building, electric was not an option. I’ve opted for a hybrid Fiat; a satisfactory compromise. I will continue to use public transportation whenever possible. And I will fly when it is my only option.
The World Health Organization … estimated that 1.6 million years of healthy living are lost every year in Europe because of noise pollution.
~ A. J. Jacobs
I know that some of my writing has been negative lately; however, putting my thoughts and feelings in writing has helped to sort out many of my recent struggles. Thank you for listening.
Also, please forgive spelling or proofing errors — reading back my writing is a painful task.