I came under attack recently. Thankfully, however, with all of the violence in the world today, this particular assault was not physical, only aural, and its only physical manifestations were that it made me flinch and cringe a little. And flee the scene as fast as possible.
And the fact is, you’re probably getting a daily dose of it yourself. The villain, plain and simple, is NOISE.
Let me explain. A week or so back I stopped in at the local McDonald’s to grab a couple salads and an iced frappe for lunch. The drive thru lines were long and a spot opened up right up outside the door so—against my better judgment—I decided to park and venture inside.
Now let me make this admission: I have Meniere’s disease and, thanks to it, over the course of the past couple years I have, for all practical purposes, gone deaf in my right ear. Moreover, oddly enough, despite partially deafening me, Meniere’s has also left me to deal with conditions known as phonphobia and photophobia, or super sensitivity to certain sounds and bright lights, and a tendency to avoid large crowds because they sometimes lead to sensory overload and an inability to decipher exactly who is saying what. So, in short, if I’m out I’m usually wearing ear plugs and dark shades, and rarely am I out in a crowd for long. (Also, another little trick Meniere’s has played on me is to leave me with what will be a lifelong condition known as tinnitus, or a “phantom” sound in my affected right ear, so, for the rest of my life I’ll always have a steam kettle or smoke alarm going off in my ear, 24/7/365. Lucky me, eh?)
That said, and thus qualified that I know a little bit about sounds and how they impact us, I waded into the deep water at McDonald’s, and let me tell ya, it’s a miracle anyone gets out of there alive.
It was like a wave washed over me as soon as I as I walked in and popped my plugs out. Cellphone conversations, conversations between people in line with others already seated, conversations with cashiers, drive thru folks, employees, and managers, alarms going off in the back, trash cans being slid around, shoes squeaking on a wet floor, babies crying, ice machines crunching and spitting out product, music blasting from cellphones and cars out in the lot, order numbers being called out…absolute bedlam. I couldn’t even stay three minutes before I bolted for the safety of my car. I was NOT McLovin’ It. In fact, I was about to lose my McFreakin’ mind, and if he had been nearby I’d probably have punched Ronald McDonald right in his McFace.
Now again I must confess, in truth, it was really pretty much a suicide scouting mission from the get-go to even enter Micky D’s, undertaken only to confirm my suspicions that we as a society are rapidly being deafened into an uncaring dumbness.
But it’s not just Micky D’s and that just an isolated incident with a hearing-challenged fellow, folks. This constant noise pollution is everywhere anymore, following you, sometime where you are and sometimes wherever you allow it.
Many workplaces have machinery that create hearing issues, or maybe you only have to worry about Earl from Shipping, the Monday morning know-it-all who ensures you hear all about how he would have called that last series of plays or pit stop yesterday. And will do it all week long. That is a special kind of inescapable noise pollution.
Or it could be forklifts or the noise of yard equipment like mowers or blowers or weed-eaters, or busy passing traffic, accelerating or downshifting semis, or teens with a new stereo system that rob you of your peace and quiet.
The radio, once a source of relaxation, is now as likely as not to be a source of hypertension as the announcers voice their concern that if you don’t hurry right down to wherever you’re gonna miss out on the big sale on this, that, or the other. Just more noise.
And TV? The worst. Television exists primarily to scream at and sell you over and over and over on what medicine to take, where to shop for which clothes, what to believe, who to trust, how to vote, which car to drive, and even on the networks themselves. Oh they’ll throw a little entertainment at you just to keep you coming back, but Eli-Lilly and Pfizer and General Motors and Geico and Progressive Insurance, and apparently Akim Anastapoulo, pay the bills. And we pay them…by heeding those noisy commercials they run.
Plain and simple the world is just a noisy, NOISY place anymore. But it always will be, because noisy apparently gets people P A I D. And that is what makes the world go around.
But I think the resulting impacts on society are obvious and frightening: Nowadays, it seems we either straight out ignore others—usually with our head down and our focus on a phone, concerned only with ourselves and our needs, or we attempt to speak louder than them. And the sad part is, as much as we are forced to hear, nobody really seems to listen anymore. Take the time to listen; nothing is more important.
Personally, I’m looking for a few Do Not Disturb signs–and a miracle. Until then, I’ll be at the house if you need me, sitting quietly.