In my strobe light, Stones concert days, I wore a Day-Glo T shirt that proclaimed, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old.” While this blinded rocker still cranks up the tunes, I find street noise as disorienting as a spotlight shone into sighted eyes. A Siren, a diesel roar, a full-throated Harley stop me in my tracks, rudderless in sensory bankruptcy. Noise pollution petrifies and terrorizes
Sound is an instrument of torture. Historically, good guys barrage enemies of the state with maddening silence or a discordant cacophony aimed at bringing miscreants to their knees. The impact of Chinese Water Torture is, I suspect, amplified by its multisensory interface, its drip, drip, drip, monotone ad nauseum. At Waco, back in ’93, ATF agents probably assaulted the fundamentalist Branch Davidians with high decibel “Highway to Hell” Before they accidentally-on-purpose rained fire and brimstone, transforming the Davidians’ mortal bodies into immortal souls. And I have it on good authority that Dick Cheney serenaded Guantanamo Bay waterboarding victims with endless ultrasonic loops of “Surfin’ USA.”
I rely on my ambient soundtrack the same way sighted folks use their rhythmic, ever-changing backdrop. Sound informs, calms and connects inside with outside. Walking residential streets, I constantly monitor and adjust to footsteps, bicycles, children at play, mail carriers’ pushcarts, front yard dogs, occasional car engines. Inevitably, I encounter the Unholy Trinity: lawn mower, leaf blower, weed whacker. Noise jams my sonar. Will the grounds crew see me, hear me, mow me or whack me? I run the gauntlet on high alert. Danger passed, I savor the silence as I step from the curb into the path of a hybrid.
Gunshots are too loud and scary; quiet is too quiet and ominous. I seek moderation. This goal is, I believe reasonable. Or am I just being hard to please?