Sounding Off

Valley View by Fereva

I am noise challenged. And in today's increasingly loud world, a challenge it is.

Somewhere in our neighborhood lives a very talkative bird.

Domesticated or not, I can't tell. Perhaps talkative isn't the correct term for a

bird who dishes out a cacophony of ear shattering screeches at all hours of the day and night. The problem being that I attempt to sleep at night and need my windows open to do so. "Caw, caw, caw!" cries the bird into the wee hours. A psychotic crow, perhaps?

Closing the windows and running the A/C fails to drown out the bird.

This is one LOUD specimen whose mission in life appears to be confirming my insomnia. Imagine birdy talons scraping down a blackboard... is your hair standing on end yet? Mine is mashed into freestyle hairdos when I arise each morning; this being the product of a pillow over my head in an attempt to drown out the racket.

On the rare occasion Big Bird shuts up, I can count on our neighborhood canines to howl day and night. A friend once told me that her dogs only barked if there was a reason; I'm just not sure that people walking past or squirrels branch-hopping qualifies as a reason. Let's face it, barking is fun- especially if the domino effect is involved where one canine yelp sets off every dog within hearing.

Abundant noise is a constant in our lives, and something about summer always seems to turn the volume up. Thankfully, some beaches now make boom boxes off limits. Have you ever been caught between two, dueling boom boxes- each gradually cranking it louder, trying to drown out the other? Which causes me to scurry from spot to spot in a futile effort to hear... the surf, silly me.

Depending on where you live in La Cañada, summer evening events at the Rose Bowl can be heard with an eery clarity that suggests a transistor radio under one's pillow. ("What's a transistor radio?" some readers may ask.) One night several years ago, the Bowl hosted the Rolling Stones. It sounded like a stereo blasting from a party somewhere down the block.

"Gee, those people must really like the Stones," I thought as the hits rocked on hour after hour.

Some folks can't seem to live without noise as their constant companion. I was first alerted to noise-as-companion in college by my apartment roommate, Jeannie. I came home one afternoon to find the radio on in the kitchen, TV on in the living room, and an eight-track tape blaring from Jeannie's room. ("What's an eight-track tape?" some readers may ask.)

At first glance, my friend was nowhere to be found. As it turned out, she was in the shower. This only dawned on me after I'd turned off all the gadgets and heard the water running in the bathroom. When Jeannie emerged a half hour later, I asked her about having the radio, TV and tape deck all going at once (contradicting each other, if you will).

"Oh, it keeps me company," she said.

"But... you were in the shower."

"Yeah," she said cheerfully, "But I know they're here."

Mine was not to question why.

Meanwhile, although the local malls offer respite from August heat, they offer none from noise. I tend to feel like a visitor from another planet whenever I venture to a mall, which is not often. I am buffeted this way and that by the crowds, then buffeted again in stores by rounders and racks of clothing packed tightly together. I compound my distracted clumsiness by walking into mirrors and glass walls.

All of this I might be able to deal with, if only the volume were turned down. Instead, each shop features its own high decibel sound so that walking past a number of stores is the equivalent of doing a rapid station search on one's car radio. I stopped into a shoe shop last week and could feel my ribs vibrating to the music. My conversation with the salesperson went something like this:

ME: Hi, I'm looking for-

HE: Whaaa?

ME: I need to find a pair of-

HE: (Yelling.) I can't hear you!

ME: Whaaa?

Maybe we shouldn't have been standing under the speakers.

Even restaurants can be a challenge while trying to carry on a dinner conversation with friends. Food servers like a cool environment as they hurry from table to kitchen to table - crank up the A/C. This is understandable, but chilling for those of us sitting still. Servers also enjoy peppy music that keeps their energy up. So don that sweater and mime your conversation.

Most people seem unperturbed by the increasing level of noise in our everyday lives, but there is one familiar summer sound which I believe disturbs all of us: coyotes trapping their prey. Is it my imagination, or do they sound celebratory in their feeding frenzy? A single howl will crescendo into a manic chorus and then worst of all- sudden silence.

It's 10 p.m. and the moon is full: Do you know where your pets are?

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