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The sound and the fury of life

October 22, 2011

Is it my imagination, or is the world getting noisier?
At the Southeastern Conference ballgame last weekend, I sat on the edge of my seat trying to stop my teeth from chattering to the beat of music blaring from the Jumbotron. 
I wouldn’t called it music exactly - more like the sound you might get from merging a sonic boom and the whinny of a horse being shocked by 1,000 volts of electricity. What kind of instrument is making that screeching sound, anyway?
Add 50,000 cowbells, and you have a mind-numbing experience which can propel the decibel level from zero to 500 in three seconds. and stir the crowd into a frenzy. 
It’s exciting once a week, but when added to the daily clamor of ear-splitting car alarms, predawn street cleaners, ubiquitous leaf-blowers, wailing sirens, and insistent chain saws, I yearn for a sound-proofed booth in  which to catch a moment of blessed silence.
Even birds are chirping at the top of their lungs just to be heard above the sounds and the furor.
At exactly 4 p.m. every afternoon, some guy rides by my house with his rap music thumping like bombs bursting in air. The panes in my windows rattle and I expect vases to begin bursting. If I had a pacemaker, it would automatically shut down! Is that really necessary?
Starting from the moment we’re jolted awake in the morning by the harsh beeping or clanging of the alarm clock, noise is part of our day. In fact, I may have become addicted to it. While tooling around in my home or car, the soundtrack of my life is the constant droning of satellite news where hosts and guests rudely interrupt and talk over each other.  
I’ve tried cutting off the squawk boxes, but become terrified that I’m going to miss late breaking news.  I’ll never forget that  day in September of 2001. I had became so sick of the news that I cut off the television and took a bubble bath while two jetliners flew into the World Trade Center. I’m afraid to become disconnected again.
I bought some ear plugs just to refresh my memory on what silence sounds like. It was a dismal failure because my mind took over and began its infernal buzz which went like this: Sew up split tights before I get kicked out of health club; send a belated birthday card to Barbara whose birthday was six weeks ago;  clean out vehicle to see what’s causing that yucky smell; throw out dead schefflera which is molting on bedroom floor…yada, yada, yada.
It goes on ad nauseam until  I am exhausted and depressed. A jack hammer would be a welcome diversion.
I woke up today with an urge to grab a guitar and play that wonderful song by Simon and Garfunkel – “The Sound of Silence” from the 1960s movie “The Graduate.” Unfortunately, I don’t own a guitar and can’t play one anyway. But some days, we just need to turn the quiet up.

Emily Jones is a retired journalist who edits a website for bouncing baby boomers facing retirement.  She welcomes comments at www.deludeddiva.com.

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