Have you noticed how noisy life has become during the past decade or so?
I’m not talking about jumbo jets or high-performance leaf blowers or the proliferation of earthmoving machines needed to build more soon-to-be-vacant strip malls and uninhabited professional centers.
No, the majority of this noise seems to be coming from a particularly loud segment of the population that rarely, if ever, speaks below the 85-decibel level.
They’re not arguing, they’re not angry, they’re not even particularly enthusiastic. They’re just loud – sort of like a gigantic extended family of New York cabdrivers.
I used to think I was more sensitive to these undiscovered opera stars because I live in a relatively quiet apartment complex where we’re all close together, but I’ve discovered the same loud crowd in shopping centers, supermarkets and the occasional funeral home.
Otherwise quiet, tree-shaded residential neighborhoods are not exempt, as a harried, red-eyed colleague pointed out to me a few weeks ago.
“Oh, sure – I know what you mean. We’ve got one set of neighbors we call ‘The Yellers.’ Nobody knows who they are or what they do for a living, but we always know when they’re home. Always…” she sighed.
Chronic loudness seems to be a generational thing, usually affecting people from roughly 25 to 40 years of age. Maybe it was simply too many rock concerts in the ’70s (“C’mon, duuuude, let’s sit up by the amps!”), or too many methamphetamines in the ’80s or just the Me Generation’s need to assert its unique me-ness, but the loud is very much with us regardless of cause.
A typical conversation, anytime from, say, 6 a.m. to midnight, goes something like this:
“COME ON, SAMMY, IT’S TIME TO GOOOOOO! PUT THE CAAAAAAT OUT AND LOCK THE DOOOORRRR!”
“HURRY UP OR WE’RE GONNA BE LAAAAATE FOR GRANDMA’S WAAAAKE! PUT THE CAAAAAAAT OUT AND LOCK THE DOOOOOR BEHIND YOOOOOU!”
“SAMMY, COME ONNNNNN!”
“BUT WE DON’T HAAAAAAAVE A CAAAAAAT!”
“SAMMY, PUT THAT CAAAAAT OUT NOW OR GRANDMA’S GONNA COME BAAAAAACK AND HAAAAAAUNT YOU!”
Of course, the conversation doesn’t have to be about the cat or one’s deceased grandmother. It can be as mundane as the weather, the laundry or breakfast.
“HEY, HONEY, BETTER GET THE LAAAAAUNDRY DONE! IT LOOKS LIKE THERE’S GONNA BE A STORRRRRM AND WE’LL NEED CLEAN TEEEEE-SHIRTS IF WE’RE GOIN’ TO BREAKFAAAAAST!”
“WHADDAYA THINK ABOUT LINK SAAAAAUSAAAAAAGE?”
“DON’T FORGET THE FAAAAABRIC STUFFFFF!”
These high voltage conversations are particularly entertaining at 7 o’clock on a Saturday morning – the sun has barely risen and you’re peacefully sleeping in after a long work week when, suddenly, you’re being pursued through your dreams by a zombie-like, sausage-wielding grandmother drooling fabric softener.
Originally published June 11, 2000