Originally, this post was going to be about the noise that made all attempts at conversation between me and my sister futile while we were waiting at the train station together one chilly morning last year in October, both travelling to Munich for work, by coincidence on the same day.
The announcements that came through the speaker above our heads; the terrible screeching noise trains make when they slow down at the platform; the sound of people's heels and the castors of their trolley suitcases on the pavement; a toddler screaming in frustration because he was not allowed to climb aboard the train; and, very softly as a backdrop, the pigeons talking to each other on the metal beams supporting the station roof.
The "perfect" timing made us wonder whether the person behind the microphone was deliberately waiting to make her announcements until yet another train would come pulling in, so that nobody would be able to make sense of the fragments of words heard above the general racket.
In the end, we just stood and listened, and later, my sister remarked, "you could blog about this".
Like I said, this was last year in October, and the topic of noise has been present ever since - almost over-present on some days, so therefore, bear with me (or skip this post altogether) when I am going to elaborate on the subject a bit more.
In May, I have started to work from home, something I am truly happy about. Up until then, I was of the opinion that I live, generally speaking, in a rather quiet neighbourhood, especially considering that I am only a few minutes' walk away from the center of this town of roughly 85.000 inhabitants.
Wrong! This is NOT a quiet neighbourhood. Cars hardly bother me; their noise is largely in the background (which in itself is very telling: in the past 125 years or so since the development of the automobile, we have come to regard cars as part of our natural habitat instead of a curiosum that was only rarely to be seen and heard and, therefore, received a lot of attention), which is mainly due to my house being in the second row of houses from the road, with other houses, gardens and big old trees in between.
One should think that the inhabitants of this area are happy to live both very close to town and not too much affected by traffic noise, and relish in the peace and quiet, right?
Whatever they can do to make a noise, they do it, it seems.
Whether it's lawn mowers or steam cleaners, outdoor vacuum cleaners for leaves or motor saws - everything, and I repeat, EVERYthing that is done outside has to be noisy some way or other.
When I am at home during the day, working at my desk in the living room, at this time of the year I like to have the windows wide open. Often enough, though, I shut them after a while, because first one and then the other and then yet another neighbour starts doing something noisy, and I can hardly concentrate on what my customers are saying on the phone.
Now, I am certainly not one to shun all technical progress; on the contrary, I benefit from a lot of gadgets and products which I would not want to be without, such as my washing machine, my mobile phone, the computer, fridge, hoover and so on.
BUT, and here comes the big BUT, noise means stress.
Reducing our exposure to noise, therefore, can mean reducing stress.
Why then, I wonder, are so many people seemingly keen on creating as much additional noise as possible?
True, there is noise which, seen realistically, we can not avoid if we want to live in town and have all the modern commodities at hand. I certainly do not expect people to completely stop using cars (although it would be nice and very good for the climate, people's wallets and their health) or to cut their lawns with a pair of kitchen scissors.
But is it really necessary to consume petrol, pollute the air by its emissions and make a lot of noise for each and every little job that is done in the garden or on the patio? I dare say no, it isn't.
Instead of using those horrid leaf vacuum cleaners (if I was Queen of Germany, I'd pass a law that would put an end to them once and for all), use a rake on the grass and a broom on the paved bits - I guarantee that the job can be done almost as fast, and you can even hear the birds sing while you do it, and smell the scent of the flowers around you instead of the exhaust fumes from the device.
Speaking of birdsong - is there anything wrong with it? Is it boring? I think not.
And yet, there are people having an allotment near where my parents have theirs, and whenever they are in their gardens, they need a radio blaring, whereas I feel that the (normally) peaceful and quiet atmosphere there is mainly responsible for the garden's appeal.
My dad can tell you the name of every bird we hear there. The noisy neighbours can probably tell you the name of every song on the radio.
Again, noise causes stress. Many studies have clearly shown that. Not everybody seems to be aware of the relationship between them feeling always stressed out (even though we have all the necessary tools to make our lives relaxed and mostly stress-free, leaving plenty of time for leisure which, in former days, used to be spent with hard physical work such as washing, cutting wood for the fire and fetching water from the well) and the level of (self-made) noise around them.
Maybe they need to be told. But would they believe it and, more importantly, do something about it?
Anyway - thank you for listening to my rant!