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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sound the Alarm

I have a house alarm – loud, relentless, annoying – house alarm. Originally purchased to ward off squatters during the remodel, it came with a three-year contract that has me puzzled as to the need.  I understand the concept of safety within the home and the need to alert emergency services. It’s the alarming sound I question. Are we not inundated with beeping cars, dinging microwaves, clicking ovens, ringing phones, vibrating cells, pinging computers, singing clocks, droning television shows and ding-dong crosswalks? Every day our lives get little louder than the life time before.
 “They are adding sound to hybrids,” said Paul once said over his morning coffee.
“Who is? “
“The car companies.”
“Why?”
“The electrics and hybrids are silent so people can’t hear the car coming. So they are adding sound… for safety.”
“Like a beep.”
“No like an Indie car – the whine – at fast turns.”
“So a sound all the time not at intersections.”
“Yes.”
“That’s ridiculous.”
“Why? I think it would be cool.”
“But the noise. Fuel cell too?”
“I guess.”
The home my late husband, Paul, and I purchased is next to the railroad tracks and a major thoroughfare. Many of our friends asked how we handle the noise. Frankly, this is the quietest place we have owned. The Alameda house sat on the approach for Oakland International Airport. I could see the pilots’ faces just above the neighbor’s roof as they flew the giant jets past me. The Fremont house also had a train and traffic—unlike this house which sits on a quiet cul-de-sac—it had the traffic running past the front yard at all hours of the night.
I will not even delve into the joys of living in an aluminum mobile home with sounds rattling in the walls or the past horrors of apartment living with people’s feet stomping above and below.
For Christmas one year my husband presented me with a sound machine that produced pleasant noises so I could sleep at night. The machine played a variety of choices: seaside, planets, ponds, whales, and a white-noise to cover-up all sounds around me.  Aside from the irritating white-noise, I enjoyed the soothing sounds but soon found myself missing the wind and rain hitting our window or my cat‘s purring at my feet. After a month, the sound machine returned to its original packaging and sat in the closet.
My mother and others in my circle have hearing aids. I am challenged with talking slowly, clearly, and loud enough to be heard but not so obvious to insult the person trying to hear my voice. Those of you with family members wearing hearing aids should understand. A female voice is harder to understand for most people with hearing loss as the higher tones are usually first to fail. So my voice and my cousins’ are particularly hard for Mom to hear. With background noise she is at a loss to understand me.  Mom complains if I’m playing the radio because it interferes with her ability to distinguish voices. At her home, she lives in world without music. That reality hit me hard. I adore music – Rock, Classical, Opera, Weird Al, Waltz, Country, and Western. Inside my head is a musical. Paul was jarred awake – more than once – by a crazy blonde standing on the bed singing “Yellow Submarine” at the top of her lungs.
 I know I have not done anything to extend my hearing. I love very loud Rock-and-Roll. I’ve had ear infections without doctors’ care, gone to open air concerts, fired weapons, and have done a myriad of actions that contribute to loss of hearing. I know I will soon join the many Baby-Boomers sporting the latest in hearing enhancement equipment.
Will I need to give up music? Will the only new songs to be heard will be a ringtone on the cell-phone next to me in the grocery store? I can’t imagine giving up the distinctive draw of YoYo Ma’s bow or the warble of McCartney’s latest love song.
As a society, we are erasing the sound of the cricket in the backyard and the coo of the Morning Dove in the park. As an individual, I help to accelerate the process by clinging to my louder devices which include one Bluetooth headset stuck in my ear.
Over time the density of sounds in our country will decrease the ability of our ears to hear the soft babble of a newborn and the symphonies written by our ancestors. The alarms will get louder, more jarring, and more demand prominence in our lives.

My music will be only what I have committed to the library in my head.