I don’t know if this is true in your neck of the woods, but I’ve noticed that my neighborhood has been eerily silent lately. Under regular circumstances, this lack of ambient neighborhood noise would be a happy development for which I would be very thankful. However, these days, the silent mornings and afternoons are rather disconcerting.
There is one neighborhood noise that I normally cannot stand. The unpleasant exhaust notes that blast from the Ford Mustang owned by one of my neighbors. Prior to this month, the neighbor, who lives catty corner from my house, used to start the car’s engine and rev it for several minutes at a time. Afterwards, he normally backed the car out of the driveway and raced up the street in low gear. This caused a window rattling, roaring noise as the car sped away. I have not heard the Mustang even once this month. The car revving used to happen several times per day.
The absence of that car’s noise has ironically caused me to become more aware of my neighbor than during the days he revved up his car. Yes, the Mustang is still parked on the driveway. Yes, the neighbor is still alive. I saw him take out his trash yesterday afternoon.
There’s another noise that’s less common. I normally hear dogs barking from time to time during the day and sometimes at night. This came to my attention while I swept tree clutter off of the driveway the other day. A bulldog barked from three lots north of my house. The bulldog’s pen has a full view of my garage and driveway. The dog usually barks at me whenever I’m in the yard. I realized that she had not been barking at me lately. The instance of her bark was reassuring.
Last Tuesday, I heard a small engine across the street. It turned out to be a fertilizer/seed spreader. It’s the type which the operator stands, not sits, on the machine as he guides it repeatedly across the lawn. The lawn service employee drove the spreader very fast. His job was completed in less than 15-minutes. After the machine was parked onto a flatbed trailer. The lawn service van and machine drove away. The neighborhood became silent again.
I live in a 100-year-old house. During the early mornings, when the world is normally very silent, the lack of noise does not make me feel uneasy. However, when a floorboard creaks or when the sheet metal ductwork of the HVAC system clangs randomly out of nowhere, I’m startled. This feeling of alarm usually occurs during those mornings that are even more silent than usual. Those are also the mornings when my tinnitus is most noticeable. I like to add some low-volume electronic ambient music to mask the internal noise. I would not miss the tinnitus if it ceased.
I’ve come to a personal conclusion. It seems that I need a certain, low-level amount of noise in order to feel comfortable. This necessity is probably a conditioned reaction or reflex of some sort. My preferences lean towards quiet pursuits. On the other hand, a small amount of noise here and there keeps the silence from being extreme.
I hope the neighborhood noise becomes normal again soon.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes cartoonist and animation filmmaker for Warner Brothers, Chuck Jones. “The author O. Henry taught me about the value of the unexpected. He once wrote about the noise of flowers and the smell of birds–the birds were chickens and the flowers dried sunflowers rattling against a wall.”