The Sounds Of Silence
LAST NIGHT I WAS SITTING AND READING when out of nowhere nothing happened. It startled me. Everything was quiet. For the first time this month I didn’t hear anybody shooting off fireworks in the neighborhood. I got up and stepped outside. Nothing. No fireworks, no dogs, no traffic. I pinched myself to see if I was dreaming.
I am so used to the noise of life in the city that the quiet is a bit unnerving. I snapped my fingers just to make sure that I hadn’t suddenly gone deaf.
Ever since I was 19 I have lived in an urban environment – in Cleveland, then San Francisco, and now in Terre Haute (That’s French for “Did you hear something?”). I had gotten used to the sound of traffic, neighbors, and the ambient background noise of city life.
In San Francisco, where I was for 25 years, I had a bus stop right outside my apartment window for 15 years in a neighborhood that was constantly buzzing with tourist activity.
Now, in Terre Haute, a much smaller city, the noise level is lower, but we are three houses off of Wabash Avenue which is also Route U.S. 40. We also have two dogs living next door. One of them barks at everything and the other howls off his empty head whenever he hears a siren. He is a dog with very good canine hearing. I swear that he can hear sirens from other states.
So, last night when I realized that it was, dare I say it, quiet, it got my attention as quickly as an explosion would have. The silence seemed unnatural.
A big contributor to that quiet was the lack of fireworks being launched by the local idiots. They either finally used up their supply of rockets, bombs, and firecrackers or they got careless and blew off a few fingers. I don’t really care which is the real reason that they stopped. If they used up the last of their stash of fireworks it will give us all a hiatus until some Cousin Buford comes to visit bringing his leftover fireworks. If they stopped because somebody is going to have to start going by the name of “Lefty” – well, the hospital is only five minutes away. If that is the case, the only long term impact will be that the digit deficient person will have to learn how to open a beer can with his toes. Cousin Buford will pick up the slack in the noise department, and maybe a finger or two.
Maybe it is a part of getting old, but I find that I have acquired a pretty nifty ability to shut out the world around me and to focus on whatever I am trying to do. I could sit and read a book, or write one, and have the UCLA Marching Band come through the room and I wouldn’t notice them.
My wife, the lovely, and worth listening to, Dawn, calls that ability “Selective Hearing,” and she thinks all husbands can do it. I dunno. Maybe.
While last night’s quiet time was wonderful it only lasted for a few minutes until the dog next door heard a siren in Denver and began to howl. And then the Doofus down the block found an extra bottle rocket in his back pocket. If, God forbid, he is injured and loses a finger I think that I might be willing to give him one.