29 September 2015
There is a human space before the clank of the day that allows us time to enjoy and gradually build up to the hubbub we’ll eventually have to deal with. It is the calm of Tai Chi between dawn and the day; the quiet of factory towns before a call-to-work whistle; the tranquility of a suburban backyard; and the hope that callers will stifle the urge to call before nine. (How Neanderthal of me, thinking days begin cordially after nine.) But I got up early…earlier than some, later than most… to enjoy a cup of coffee on the deck surrounded by neighborhood drowsiness with time to think and read a digital newspaper before work…not even the crinkle of turning newsprint pages. So latte in hand this morning, I slid the deck door open.
And wham, the day unloaded an assault of 8 a.m. noise that rivaled Verdun. A neighbor’s lawn was being cut by a massive gas-engine riding mower without a muffler. Another gardener was at work with a string trimmer. A neighbor to one side let his dog out and it responded to the mower by trying to bark it to death. A second huge gas-engine mower started in on another lawn. (These houses, by the way, are on lots that are less than a quarter acre…talk about bringing a howitzer to a spelling bee.) At that point a faint cocktail of exhaust fumes began wafting over to me, ensuring a wonderful morning’s coffee.
Adding to the mix, a school bus was backing up on the street in front of the house, emitting piercing pings of warning. A helicopter, probably keeping track of traffic, hovered overhead. Thousands of feet above that was a jetliner, seen but not heard because of the ground noise. You think I’m finished, but I’m not. A caller did break the unwritten code of decency and called at 8:05. Amazingly I heard the ringer, as I did the door bell five minutes later. Fortunately by 8:15 all of these noises had disappeared…all except the dog that was rattled for the whole day and kept barking at the memory of combustion engines. Birdsong could once again be heard as the noise subsided and so, faintly, could the jets in their regular approach patterns to LaGuardia Airport 10 miles away.
Oddly enough, though, I realize that 24-hour-a-day tranquility would drive me as crazy as overwhelming noise. Thoreau might have treasured the absence of distraction on Walden Pond, but for the occasional otter or wind whistling through trees. But I don’t mind the resonance of life…the scrape of garbage trucks, crowd noise at a baseball game, a bit of traffic, neighbors talking, helicopters gathering traffic information.
Yup, I’m a creature of modern living…Now if I only could figure out the differences between Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest, much less how to use them.