Angelia McLean: Country Mouse City Mouse 9-19-11
“One thing I can’t stand is the noise, noise, noise, noise!”
~ Grinch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”
Is there such a thing as silence anymore? You know the kind; it is so silent that you can hear your own blood coursing through your veins. But then again, if you’ve only grown up in today’s society or the last 20 years or so you probably have no idea what complete silence is!
There is some sound everywhere you go these days. Shopping centers find it necessary to serenade you with piped in music outside of stores and, inside, it has been studied that you’ll spend more money if there is up beat music playing.
Dining out means you’re held prisoner to the chosen plate of music du jour. Even fast food restaurants like Wendy’s have their own selections of overhead sound systems depending on their locations. Driving your car without the radio on you’ll more than likely stop at a red light only to suffer the head-banging base speakers rattling the car next to you. (I’m always waiting for the entire car to just deconstruct right there under the duress of the sound impact). My children do chemistry, calculus and read with headphones on. Even with headphones there is always someone who has it so loud he might as well have foregone the headphones. And what ever happened to librarians shushing the book patrons? It use to be a sanctuary of silence and quiet contemplation. Now these places are full of preschool play groups and read out loud time complete with musical instruments. You actually had to whisper at one time or suffer the nasty glare from the librarian with her reading glasses bouncing off her large bosom. Neighborhood block parties host a live band rather than neighborly conversations and yard games and we have so many things plugged in that we’re evolving with a certain level of inescapable din. You might only notice if the power goes off. Do we really need to know that your great aunt Tilly is on her third husband? One can’t be in any public place without some drama queen on a cell phone.
There is also a new level of noise being bred right into our youngsters. It’s called the scream. No child can play without screaming. They come out screaming and they keep screaming until they leave the nest. Loud wailing while rolling on the floor is part of the young specie’s survival technique. We use to call it spoiled.
Living in the city it is inherent that there would be noise; sirens from a plethora of emergency vehicles which in addition to blaring their sirens, must also honk because drivers don’t clear a path; airplanes from DIA; military fighter jets streaking above; relentless news helicopters filming the latest accident – worthy of expensive fuel; lawn mowers-and those lovely blowers; roofers’ pounding; dogs; traffic; did I mention screaming children? (see above) There is never an escape from noise in a city. You must leave.
Our family takes an annual trek to the mountains where we leave behind the city and retreat to a an obscure part of the White River National Forest. It is a sanctuary of quiet. Upon our arrival my ear drums still vibrate from habit until they realized there was nothing for them to hear and then relaxed. Just the wind in the tall pines and aspens, a snickering horse, and the slam of the screen door. The most sound one can hear is made by the multitude of hummingbirds squabbling like wind-up toys. Sleeping the first night can be somewhat disconcerting; not only is it pitch black but completely silent.
I remember complete silence in the city a few times. During a snowstorm, less people move and the snow creates a silent chamber. Another time was the night of September 11, 2001; the silence was ominous; there were no planes, no one or thing was moving and it seemed as if everyone had frozen in time with grief.
I’ve once lived in the country. Quiet meant country life. It is enviably more silent and serene although I’m not so sure these days. Widened highways at a farmer’s front door, suburban sprawl is in the backyard, and radios blare from barns and corrals with just as many people on cell phones.
“The filth and noise of the crowded streets soon destroy the elasticity of health which belongs to the country boy.”
~ Rutherford B. Hayes
I wonder if I started an organization called http://www.TurnItOff.org if anyone would join my crusade? Working to encourage everyone to shut up and turn it off? Walk without headphones? Not answer the phone and shop in silence? Lost cause since even the Grinch gave up.