Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Noises Off!

When did noise become an accepted component of dining out? Or attending a wedding? Or enjoying a couple of Marzan Lagers at the local brew pub? 

Why has the murmur of conversation morphed into the agitated shout-speak of college kids at a frat party?

One reason is the prevailing fashions in architecture and interior design. The acres of glass, cement and corrugated metal we encounter everywhere doesn't absorb sound—they bounce it back to us like a letter with insufficient postage.

Add blaring juke boxes, oversized Jenga games and public address systems set on 'stun' and we are writing a blank check for the next generation of audiologists.

But the rest of it? Not so simple.

Okay—I'll admit it. I'm old. But tell me why going out to dinner—even where the house band isn't named the Who or Deep Purple—requires ear plugs.

You know noise and digestion go together like beets and milk, right?

Eating dinner at a wedding reception demands that we withstand a barrage of DJ announcements—at least when he or she isn't overwhelming the room with music played twice as loud as it needs to be.

Even attending a low-key event like an outdoor car show requires protecting oneself from a public address system capable not only of overcoming the rustle of leaves in a soft breeze but of delivering inane announcements into the next zip code.

Even libraries have fallen prey to this pitiable trend.

I get it that to a younger generation requiring constant external stimuli to feel alive or even awake, noise is life. And this has been duly reinforced by our media. (One more variation of 'live out loud' and I'm going to scream.)

But ultimately, noise is a distraction. And I don't want to be distracted.

Not when I'm engaging in conversation over dinner with a friend. Not when I'm celebrating the union of a young couple. And not when I'm drinking in the splendor of a cream-colored 1952 Jaguar X-120.

Silence is resonant. Silence is reflection. Silence is a space pregnant with possibilities.

iPhones weren't invented at a wedding reception in between blasts of Kanye West and Taylor Swift. The Magna Carta wasn't conceived at Texas Roadhouse, with its shrieking toddlers and way-too-loud doses of Miranda Lambert and Lady Antebellum.

And I surely didn't write this shielding my ears from the over-caffeinated moron yelping over a PA powerful-enough to make Metallica smile.

Technology is a distraction, one which isolates us from the very world it purports to connect us with.

In our embrace of it, I only wonder what it is we are so desperately trying to distract ourselves from.

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