Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Sounds Of Silence

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 3, 2021] ©2021

You know that life around you has become too perpetually noisy when you hear a sound that you can’t quite place but seems familiar. Then you realize it’s birds chirping.  In fact, it’s your own aviary birds.

The eerie quiet is unsettling.  What happened to the leaf blowers and chain saws and jack hammers? Has the city been evacuated and you weren’t notified? 

For a while, I used to think that my nice residential neighborhood has always been really noisy but I didn’t realize it since I was at work all day. Or, that once the current construction projects were finished, the serenity I think I remember (but could have hallucinated) will return. 

But nope, I’ve been retired for a while. This is the new reality.

One obvious source of noise is lawn mowers, tree trimmers, and leaf blowers.  San Diego’s year-round growing season blesses us with perpetually lush greenery.  Which needs to be trimmed.  Constantly.

I grew up in the Northeast where lawn mowers (generally teenager-powered, and very quiet, except for the complaining) were strictly a summer event and leaf blowers didn’t exist. No snow-blowers then either, just kids shoved out the front door with shovels at 6 a.m. to clear the driveway so we could get to school (kids) and commuter train (Dad).  There was nothing my mother feared more than a snow day.

It would only be fair to note that on Wednesday mornings, the mowing and leaf blower noise comes from my house (and my next-door neighbors’ whose lawn service comes at the same time, creating a cacophonous mind-numbing stereo). And I have to cop to a half day of really noisy tree trimming recently too.

I realize that leaf blowers save lawn guys a lot of time. But I really hate the noise, and even more the fact that these machines are blowers not vacuums.  At my house, they simply relocate all the leaves and dust from point A to Point B, the latter being all over the lawn chairs stored on my back porch. 

We used to have a local kid doing lawn maintenance who was a holy terror with a leaf blower.  I’d be puzzled as to why my kitchen was full of leaves and dirt.  With his iPod turned up full blast, “Bentley” failed to notice that he was blowing all the detritus from the patio through my kitchen window.  One had to admire the technical skill that got so much lift in those leaves that he could get them up and over a four-foot high pass-through.  The stuff that failed to achieve altitude settled like Mt St. Helens ash on the plants. 

But it’s the on-going construction noise, both residential and commercial, that is really doing me in. By 7 a.m. six days a week, there are jack hammers, nail guns, cement mixers, skill saws, thundering lumber deliveries, and assorted power tools going on in seeming Surround Sound.  

Our (truly lovely) next door neighbors did a 2.5 year remodel a few years ago, having been promised by their contractor, “Ralph,” that it would be “six months maximum.”  (I stuck a lot of pins into Ralph dolls during that time.) My husband and I maintained that the noise was at least offset by our gaining a second language from the Tijuana radio station the construction guys boomed some seven days a week.  (But did they have to sing along?)

The average spec McMansion remodel seems to take at least two years (really). Then whoever buys it remodels it again to customize it and “make it their own.”  If I were mayor, I’d make it a law forbidding any house from being remodeled less than three years from the last remodel.  And I’d also make the those spec house/house flipper contractors live in the house for one year after the project was finished to give the neighbors on both sides opportunity to exact revenge. Lots of revenge. The Flipper Pay Back Act would allow anything short of arson, and only because then you’d have to start building again.

It isn’t just a multitude of construction and gardening noise.  There are at least six different kinds of helicopters that buzz regularly over our home: military, police, news, Coast Guard, tourist, and INS. Some days it sounds like the Ride of the Valkyries scene in Apocalypse Now.

The changing flight path from Lindbergh Field seems to be adding to the aerial pollution although I have to confess, I’ve been pretty good at tuning that out. 

And that’s the issue.  Tuning it out.  There’s only so much noise you can tune out. The batteries seem to have permanently crumped on my inner tuner-outer.

The (truly lovely) next door neighbors have just alerted us that they need to do an “upgrade” to correct some problems with the remodel they finished two years ago.  Three months max, they promise.

Oy. Just so long as they don’t hire Ralph. 




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