Wednesday 13 July 2011

All that NOISE!!!

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?
Wrong again!

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!


  1. I fully agree with you.
    There are some gardens behind my house, and especially on a Saturday afternoon, one after the other gardener starts using either a shreeder, lawn mower or motor saw. Seems like they have to keep a constant noise level... But at least there are now leaf vacuum cleaners in our street!

  2. I agree with you so much about noise. I have the problem that if there's talking or music going on, I can't concentrate on what I'm doing. I really can't think. But, I've wondered sometimes if people like noise BECAUSE it is - well, not stressful but stimulating. Maybe it's more introverted people, who don't need much outside stimulation, who find it hardest to deal with. The other aspect which you didn't mention is loud disco music and bar music. It beats me how you can go into a bar, and spend a good part of an evening there and nobody can hear properly what anyone else is saying. That's my idea of a truly horrid evening. But it seems I'm in the minority.

  3. happy to see you at farmhouse's always nice to see you, my friend

    sending love,
    kary and teddy

  4. One thing I cannot stand is the noise of 5 men mowing and wacking and blowing someone's yard to crew-cut perfection. It seems someone or other has their yard done every day in my neighborhood. But the noise isn't as bad as the smell of all that gasoline... ick.

  5. 12 and Sonia, yes, wouldn't it be better it people somehow found an agreement as to WHEN they do all their noisy deeds? Instead, they seem to take turns deliberately so that it is never really quiet.

    Jenny, I do not mind the loud music in a disco when am there to just dance, but when I want to talk to someone, I want to talk, not shout! I guess you are right about the more introverted people not needing that much stimulation from outside. While I can hardly be described as introverted (quite the contrary), I so appreciate quietness and need it to keep my mental sanity.

    Kary, I may not always comment on your beautiful posts, but I always read & look at them! Thank you for stopping by at my library :-)

  6. I wrote a comment on this post this morning and it didn't appear and I couldn't recall if you had comment moderation enabled. As you have now posted without mine appearing I assume that mine got lost. I commented, amongst other things, that I rarely heard any of the noises to which you refer. I did acknowledge, however, that you had given me an idea for my Thankful Thursday post. I've since written that post. So I am writing this comment to thank you for making me aware of just how lucky I am.

  7. I came here from GB's post... I live in a 'rather quiet' area of town too, not very far from the town centre but yet aside from big roads. I do get stressed sometimes by certain noises from neighbours, like an irritating beat of music, or very loud chatting out on the balconies in the summer. There's one advantage to living in an apartment building among other similar buildings owned by the same company though. When they mow the lawns or use machines to blow leaves away etc, they do the job in one day, and that's it (until next time). And we never have that kind of noise in the evenings or on the weekend. Whereas when you live surrounded by individual gardens, it can go on all week round.

  8. Brilliant! A well-written, entertaining rant. Noise causes stress and then, I think, we begin to feel that we need stress and start creating more and more of it. And share it with our neighbors. It is probably a pandemic. Great post...reminds me to blog sometime about a "Silent Retreat" I went on years ago.

  9. GB, I use comment moderation only for comments on posts older than 2 weeks - simply because otherwise, I would never be aware of anyone's comments on my older posts. But indeed your original comment here never appeared, so I am glad you took the time to come back and successfully try again. And I feel honoured to have inspired you to a post, which I am going to read right after finishing here!

    DawnTreader, thank you for stopping by; I have seen you commenting on Scriptor Senex' blog several times. Don't get me wrong - I do not mind being aware of my neighbours by some level of noise coming from them, otherwise, I would have to live on a lone island. It is just the totally unnecessary noise that bothers me.

    Mark, wow, thanks for the compliment! It is not often that one of my rants is called brilliant and entertaining :-)
    I will look out for your post about the Silent Retreat.

  10. I had to chuckle as I read this post. It seems ever piece of emergency vehicle in my town just went by at break neck speed . . . talk about noise pollution! Hopefully it's not too serious.

    What drives me crazy are the weekend warriors who like to start cutting their grass at 7:00 a.m.!

    Great post!

  11. Dear Librarian, how right you are with your whole entry! It could be written by me, because here we have all the same problem! I think, that is all over the world a tribute to the civilization, we have to pay.

  12. Mary, sometimes we get that, too; emergency vehicles blaring their sirens and helicopters above, they cross my neighbourhood when they go to or from the motorway to the hospital.

    Anonymous, yes, it certainly is part of the price we have to pay for all the modern comforts we value.

  13. I cannot BEGIN to explain how much I agree with you on this post. It is my belief that the noise that others create are just one of the cruel things that are done these days in the name of FREEDOM. In other words, the feeling that one may do as one wishes because you live in a free country. My feeling is... you may do what you like, as long as you keep your noise and your smells do yourself. (I hate smoke too!)
    Since inconsiderate people do not have a soundproof shield over themselves, we have to just deal with the issue of noise pollution! (But we don't have to like it!)

  14. May I add the noise of trucks! I live in a rural environment, but I can hear a heavy truck a mile away.
    Noises I like: Birds chirping and sprinklers sprinkling...very peaceful sounds...a soft wind in the trees, but this can and does change in a nano-second to a howling wind which gets on my nerves and makes me crazy.

  15. @Kay,
    you are quite right! Freedom ends there, where freedom of the others begins, I think!

  16. Yes, Kay, smell often goes hand in hand with noise pollution, although, thankfully, I am too far away from the lawn mowers and leaf blowers to be annoyed by their exhaust fumes.

    Jill, road traffic in general is too noisy - and there are people who go "did you hear this!" and are all enthusiastic when someone in an expensive car or on a much-coveted motorbike passes by.

    Anonymous, you are so right there!

  17. Bah humbug! How oo stop the floodgates opening.. Nope, here goes! Why is it that on the few sunny Sundays we get in this country of generally not-very-good-weather, everyone gets out a motor mower to mow their 10m square lawns for two hours? How can you mow such a small lawn for so long. And: When they finished, is it by mutual agreement that another neighbour then starts? I have a push along mower. It uses no electricity and keeps me in fine fettle. And yet, when I bump into neighbours in the street, I still smile sweetly and say hello. What a miserable old git I am, and hypocritical too to boot!

  18. Hello Perl, thank you for stopping by! When I was still a teenager (mind you, that was in another century... even in a different millenium!), sometimes I did my grandparents' tiny patch of grass in their actually not-so-tiny garden with one of them push along mowers. I actually liked the sound it made, and the strangely productive activity.
    Now, as for the neighbours, what I imagine happening is this: Mrs. A. in No. 2 says, "Darling, our lawn needs mowing... would you...?" And Mr. A. happily obliges. At No. 4, Mrs. B. hears the noise and calls out to Mr. B., who is just settling down in the lounge with his paper: "Mr. A. is mowing the lawn, you know ours needs doing, too..." And some time later, at No. 6, Mr. C. has finally found the right motivation for getting his mower out of the shed, spurned on by his neighbours' activity and striving to have an even neater lawn than Mr. A. and Mr. B.