Our ancestors enjoyed silence. At least I hope they enjoyed it, because every invention they produced – every mechanical and electrical advance they made – has led to the constant thrum of noise that we in the developed world are immersed in.
Our forebears worked their asses off 16 hours a day. When they finally huddled in their huts and cottages and cabins at the end of a long day, these hovels were not the insulated and breeze-resistant wonders we live in today.
It wasn’t so quiet that they could hear the grass grow. There would have been the sounds of birds and animals and insects – all hopefully outside. Then, along came technology, and constant, growing noise. We have become inured to it, and most of us never even notice it. It’s just part of our lives.
I had one of ‘those moments’ the other day. Like the digital clocks and power indicator LEDs spewing light around my house, I became aware of how many things were constantly pumping noise into my ears. I have four analog clocks spread around my house. They’re all electric, running on batteries, but they all tick, tick, Tick, Tick!
The son doesn’t want the cats or dog messing with stuff in his room, so he keeps the door closed 24/7. It could get a little funky in there, so he has set the thermostat so that the circulating fan on the furnace runs on low, constantly. In the summer when the air conditioning, or in the winter when the burner kicks in, the fan ramps up to high.
In the winter, the air in the house gets so dry that I raise half-inch blue sparks, reaching for doorknobs or light switches, so we have a humidifier pumping moisture (and noise) into the atmosphere. The mechanical timer on the water softener clatters away to itself in the basement, and the softener itself howls for about two hours, twice a week. Beside it is the chest freezer, beside that is the ‘beer fridge’, plus the big one in the kitchen, none on constantly, but regularly. Even the water heater burbles away to itself when hot water is used.
In an attempt to conserve electricity, Ontario has banned incandescent light bulbs. The new CFL, compact fluorescent light bulbs are cheaper on power, but each has a starter built into the base. These emit a faint 60-cycle hum when turned on. I sit beside a tri-light bulb when I do my crosswords. The greater the light output, the more pronounced the hum. Two or three of those in a room, and the cats have their paws over their ears.
The tower for my PC sits below my desk, down in cat-hair country, so we decided to add a second exhaust fan, just to be safe(r). The son’s PC is not always on, and only has one fan. The wife’s laptop has one exhaust fan, but she plays a lot of games. No Grand Theft Auto – more Canasta and Monopoly – but it was overheating, so now its single fan sits above a cooling pad with two more fans running.
The wife has tinnitus – overactive nerves that make her ears ‘hear’ squeals and whines that aren’t there. To cover up the fakes, so that she won’t go crazy, she often has the stereo on low, or a play list running on the laptop.
There’s the exhaust fan above the stove, when we’re cooking – the washroom exhaust fan – the washer and/or dryer – the dishwasher – the microwave – the stove-oven exhaust fan – the toaster-oven fan – the traffic noise from the four-lane Regional road, 100 feet from my back door – the four-year-old boy who lives in the other half of our semi-detached house, with his collection of bowling balls that he rolls down the stairs, and his seven-year-old sister who walks like a rhino.
I’m going mad – MAD I tell you! (What? Too late??) It’s a wonder that the kids playing road hockey outside don’t tell us to keep it down. I moved from a quiet small town to the big city (500,000) for jobs and amenities. I shouldn’t complain, but I’m a Grumpy Old [retired] Dude, what else do I have to do? If any of you want to comment about the levels of noise you have to put up with, YOU’LL HAVE TO SPEAK UP! I CAN’T HEAR YOU! 😉