I spent Monday indoors, steaming because of machine noise. My formerly peaceful, rural environment has become a cesspool of cacophony in my lifetime. Even as I write, my neighbor brother-in-law is mowing the lawn between our houses. He couldn’t do it over the weekend, when all the neighbors were outside with their power tools, and the Gun Club was a’popping down the street. No, he had to wait until Monday, so he could rev his lawnmower for an hour, complete with backfires and my slim and waning hope that it would stop for good, or that he would give up. The grass doesn’t even need mowing.
It may be said that I am adding to the noise by my complaints. It seems the world is overpopulated with people and machines screaming for attention. There are so many demands on attention, from so many sources, that it’s tempting to shut them all out, if that were possible. I understand now why people go deaf.
Last night it occurred to me that I look forward to the evenings and the relief from the constant demands on attention—and my rooster is crowing—from phone ringing for sales or survey calls, or the daily hang-up calls. I get enough noise from the nags inside my head, who are constantly badgering me to do something.
Am I the only person on the planet who likes peace and quiet, with emphasis on quiet? There are people who say they like “white noise.” They can’t sleep without it. It is said nature abhors a vacuum. Even formerly empty space—phone rings, and I hang up without even looking to see who’s calling—is now said to be full of “dark matter” and “dark energy,” suggesting there are no vacuums anywhere. I wonder if the theorized black holes are actually vacuums, with the common characteristic of sucking everything into them. Is gravity, then, a vacuum begging to be filled? Does silence attract sound, like a magnet attracts iron filings?
Ahhhh . . . The lawn mower has stopped. My rooster Squire, who I moved to the filing cabinet next to me, is quiet for the moment, looking quizzically at me. Now, the lawn mower is back.
I used to frequent coffee shops, but no more. I’m tired of asking the personnel to turn the music down. How many grocery store or big-box store cashiers have I asked if they get paid extra to listen to the “I Died and Went to Hell” music at top volume? I tell them to tell their bosses the music is driving customers away. Has it made a difference, in the years I’ve complained? “I just tune it out,” a cashier once told me, “but that’s harder to do when it’s skipping.”
In my lifetime, “progress” and “development” has occurred all around my neighborhood. Not only that, but the perpetual US wars have contributed to an increase in size and activity of Georgia military bases. One of them, the Hunter Army Airfield, is within a couple of miles—as the jet flies—from my house, with its flight path directly overhead. I always know when troops are being deployed, because planes fly low overhead every five minutes, headed for Iraq or Afghanistan, or wherever they are sending the testosterone-poisoned to make war this week.
Savannah has grown up around Hunter over the past 60-odd years, but Yankees have invaded on the ground, too, with the conversion of International Paper’s island and former tree farm to a gated community real estate development, complete with three taxpayer-funded bridges over the intra-coastal waterway. My formerly peaceful residence happens to lie between town and this gilded prison, which has led to an increase in traffic and more development along the route. Because of construction and clearing of trees for same, vegetation no longer blocks or absorbs the noise, and the traffic becomes a roar at rush hour, especially when the tide is high.
In order to serve these Yankees and their ilk the county has courted “progress” in the form of a Walmart and Sam’s Club within hearing distance and adjacent to a new parkway so that the Yankees can get home from town faster. This brought three stoplights and attendant congestion, along with a street sweeper in the wee hours in the Walmart parking lot.
I put the fear of the lord in the street sweeper at 2 a.m. one night, when he woke me up, because this “progress” along with the “progress” of the grass seeder at International Paper’s real estate development golf courses, has caused my property taxes to double in the last ten years.
Now all governments claim to want “progress” and “economic development,” but the flaw in this reasoning is that current residents are expected to pay for the governments’ desire to attract future residents. The Yankees gloat about how living expenses are lower here than in the urban cesspools from which they escaped, but they have raised my living expenses, taxes, and have created mayhem on my stomping grounds.
My brother-in-law is not a Yankee, but he loves his power tools, just as the coffee shops love their “Feel My Pain” music, the military loves its helicopters and jets, the Gun Club loves its guns, the whole world loves its SUVs, trucks and other gas guzzlers, the neighbors love their barking dogs, and my roosters love to crow.
What’s the difference between a Northerner and a Yankee? A Northerner visits and goes home. A Yankee buys real estate for inflated prices, gets a parkway and bridges built for him, owns a couple of SUVs, and stays to criticize those they have elbowed out of their way, like the deer on the former tree farm, which now grows houses and golf courses.
I contend the noise is driving everyone crazy, but can people hear themselves think anymore? Do they want to?