Jumat, 21 Mei 2010

Quiet, Please

On Tuesday, this article appeared in The New York Times. It is titled "Meditations on Noise," and subtitled, "Three Explorations of a Cacophonous World." In it, Dwight Garner reviews three books about silence and noise. I read it with some interest because, as Garner writes, "noise is among the thorniest class issues of our time." True.

For years, I have (silently) resented the intrusion of noise in our neighborhood. I notice it most in the summer, when the windows are open and when long days of heat and languor are frequently disrupted by an invasion of industrial-size lawn mowers and weed whackers. Our lots are small in this neighborhood, and yet all day trucks pull in and out, pulling trailers with equipment designed for big places. There is no efficiency in this outsourcing: people hire all different landscaping companies to perform this work, which means the jobs are spread out not just throughout the day, but throughout each week. I keep thinking it would be great if those who use these services could somehow organize them, or organize themselves, so that people on one street contracted with one company. In this scenario, one designated bid-winning company could come out on one day of the week and consolidate those jobs into one afternoon. It would seem that one extended but consolidated time of sonic disruption would be less annoying than many.

Part of the problem, I'm sure, is that many of those who use landscaping crews are not home when these crews show up. The noise isn't affecting them. And it's not just the big mowers that are noisy. Any two-cycle engine is. Add to this the reality that when people are busy, they mow when it is convenient for them...Sunday mornings and weekend evenings. The city's noise ordinance prohibits "construction noises" on Sundays, and there is some mention of engine exhaust, but two-cycle engines are not specifically addressed. It surprises me, a bit, to wish this, but in the (growing) absence of neighborly consideration, I think it would help to impose some formal regulations on the use of two-cycle engines. As in, here are the hours of the day during which a two-cycle engine can be operated. If you operate a two-cycle engine outside of these hours, you may be fined. "Construction noises" are limited to the hours between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. Fair enough: when you're getting a new roof and you've got one sunny day to get it on, you need a crew to start early and finish late. But I don't want to hear a lawn mower at 7:30 a.m. when I'm drinking coffee, and I don't want to hear a lawn mower at 6:30 p.m. when I'm eating dinner, and I don't want to hear a lawn mower every 45 minutes throughout the day.

I know this is an awfully grumpy post. It just seems that, come summertime, it ought to be quiet enough to hear what I like to think are the true sounds of the neighborhood: a toddler crying a few houses down, somebody playing a piano, cicadas, birds, silverware clinking on a patio at dinnertime.

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