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Quiet Time Or Else

By Tom ímodel train enthusiastí Waters
July 1, 2008

I can’t manage to make it through one day off without hearing a baby crying or a kid throwing a tantrum in public. I have to deal with it work and it’s like having an ice pick driven into the center of my nut sac having to hear it in my free time.

In my free time, Iím constantly battling for some small degree of peace and quiet. Iím very sensitive about noise pollution and most people are so used to it that they donít make the connection between their short tempers and frenetic behavior and the sheer amount of random obnoxious everyday sounds that they have to deal with. Once or twice a year I vacation at Rushford Lake and the contrast between city living and country living is stark and obvious. One of the high points of my weeks away from home is the pure silence during the week in the off-season and the soft lullaby of the crickets at night and nothing else to distract me from nodding off. A few gallons of whiskey in front of a bonfire before bed time doesnít hurt, either.

I have less of a tolerance for noise than most, though, and it could be a result of growing up in my parentís basement. In the fifth grade, I got sick of having to share a room with my little brother, grabbed my mattress and boxed spring and made an exodus for quieter climates on the ground floor of the house. Now that Iím not a cave dweller anymore, I havenít been able to sleep as easily. Our landlord was smart enough to show us the apartment on a Sunday afternoon and we didnít even notice the train tracks we drove over down the street. In the summer time, we get an estimated 400 trains crossing the tracks between the hours of midnight and seven a.m. and they all pass by and blow the whistle every three seconds. How many goddamned cars do you need to warn at four in the morning? Wouldnít one whistle do the trick? I used to have a very romantic notion about trains when I was in my teens. I donít anymore.

I canít manage to make it through one day off without hearing a baby crying or a kid throwing a tantrum in public. I have to deal with it work and itís like having an ice pick driven into the center of my nut sac having to hear it in my free time. My mood instantly goes from so-so to godawful the second I hear the fruit of someoneís loins wailing within earshot. Every time I talk to my buddy Mike on the phone one of the babyís from his litter inevitably starts bawling their eyes out directly into the mouthpiece. Put a sock in that thing! I realize that itís one of the only ways for an infant to express the need to be fed, have a diaper changed, or have a nap, but none of these are my responsibilities yet and I shouldnít have to deal with it. If youíre going grocery shopping and your kid canít shut the hell up, throw him in the trunk of your car or leave him in the car in the middle of the summer with the windows rolled up for all I care. Just keep that mouth more than five aisles away from me. Donít take your kids out to eat in fancy restaurants until their 25 and they have some semblance of how to behave themselves in mixed company. Yes, Iím planning on having kids and Iím going to make a great father.

Every old man in every neighborhood Iíve ever lived in is intent on mowing their lawns morning, noon and night every single day from the spring until the first snowfall. A half a millimeter of growth on your lawn does not make you a bad homeowner. There are other things to do with your retirement besides making circles in your back yard with a riding mower. You cannot escape the grim reaper by staying on a John Deere for five months out of every year. And someone needs to invent a muffler for weed wackers before I decide to make one by muffling the weed wacker in the anus of the old man to the right and left of our building. Landscaping is an important means of maintaining your curbside house value and taking pride in the forty square feet of land that you pay a mortgage and taxes on, but give it a rest from time to time. Jesus!

And one of these days Iím going to throw my home phone out the window and communicate primarily through smoke signals. The second I lay down for a nap, it never fails. After going the entire day without so much as a peep from the base of my cordless every friend, acquaintance, telemarketer and family member I have decided to return my calls, bother me for no reason, or drop a line just to see whatís going on. This is one of the five million reasons that I donít own a cell phone. With a home phone, there is a small delay between getting up out of bed and lumbering over to the phone where I can cool down without picking up the phone and telling my girlfriendís parents to go f*%k themselves and not to bother me anytime between the hours of noon and five. And call waiting is the most annoying feature in the history of the telephone. I turned it off before a scheduled celebrity interview once and never turned it back on. One less aggravation in my life.

They say (and by ĎtheyĎ, I have no idea who Iím referring to) that police issue tickets for loud car stereos now but theyíre full of shit. Itís always the people with the worst conceivable taste in music who feel compelled to share it with the rest of the tri-county area. Forty cars around you would like to be asked before you share your twenty minute techno remix of Celine Dionís íMy Heart Will Go Oní. Your milkshake is better than mine if you dump it on the frigging dashboard of your car so that it gums up the circuitry in your sound system. I heard some mid-life crisis blasting Van Morrison while he was sporting a Detroit lean in his affordable SUV. Van Morrison is not something you crank up the volume for. Van Morrison is for every movie soundtrack from 1990 and up, but heís not something you crank up the volume in your car for. Either get some taste or listen to talk radio and get some brains. Itís also in most peopleís best interests to buy a decent car before they cram the stage equipment from a Pink Floyd concert into the trunk of their í87 hatchbacks. How laid are you going to get with the rust spot you call the left side of your car and upholstery thatís falling from the roof of the inside of your car? Is the thumping bass a distraction from the metal-on-metal brakes that you couldnít afford to fix because you spent $5,000 on a Bose speaker system? I hope all your eardrums burst out of your heads and splatter on the pavement through the open windows you assault the rest of us with with your unforgivably awful addiction to Kiss 98.5.

There are a million little extra noises in my life that I could do without and the sum total of them wear away at the diminishing temper I already have. If my old man next door neighbors, my railroad conductors, my friendís infants and random drivers had a little bit more consideration for those around them, perhaps Iíd be a little bit more sane. Or perhaps not. I run a fan at night so that my mind has something to focus on to drown out the rest of the world. When my neighbors mow their lawns, I strategically place land mines in their yard at night after they go to sleep at five pm. When I hear a kid crying while Iím grocery shopping, I punch him in the face and apologize to the mother insincerely. And when Iíve had enough of all of it, I get the hell out of town and find asylum in the countryside for a week. Silence is golden. When I find out what it feels like to stop and hear myself think, Iíll let you know.