It’s almost nine p.m. and I’m sitting on the patio in the dark, writing my Tuesday post.  It was warm today, in the eighties and inside the house, the temperature is still hovering in the high seventies.  I find that as I get older, I like cooler temperatures.  Perhaps it’s male menopause … perhaps it’s the extra layer of permafat I’ve accumulated in my sixties.  One of the pleasures of California summers is cool evenings, so here I sit.  I can hear the faint audio of the TV from several nearby houses and the ffft-ffft-ffft of the Rainbird sprinklers watering our back slope.   My next door neighbor’s automatic pool cleaner periodically makes a sound that is a cross between a wildcat snarling and a walrus vomiting, which sets the rat-dog on the hill to yowling.  It got me thinking … Thought Number Onehow rarely I get to hear real silence here in Southern California, how often what passes for quiet is really a combination of ambient sounds I’ve become accustomed to.   Like the sprinklers.  The faint TV sounds.  Even the pool sucker.  The rat-dog yapping?  That’s Noise.  Yes, I know the sound of natural silence.  I heard it once a few years back, when Muri and I took a cruise to Alaska … one of our excursions was a seaplane flight to an isolated mountain lake.   Standing on the shore looking out over the glassy water, I heard it. Creepy (only kidding).  Too bad it can’t be bottled.  The closest thing to bottled silence I know of is a pair of Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones, and truth be told, there is a faint electronic hiss inside the ear cups.

Today I was writing in our park.  The park is about a mile from the busy Riverside Freeway and if you take time to notice, there is a continual drone of tires on concrete.   Most times, I don’t even hear it.   The same is true of the screaming of kids on distant playgrounds (I make sure they are distant when I pick my picnic table) and the cawing of the crows that are always flying from tree to tree, looking for a scrap of food left in a parking lot or a hawk to harrass.  But today, a solitary park maintenance man was trimming around the trees with a gas powered Weed-Whacker.  Most definitely Noise.   That got me thinking … Thought Number Two … What allows some sounds to slip into the background, while others are Noise?  And why is it personal?  I know dog-lovers for whom barking is ear-music … I love the sound of the birds chirping in the morning, it drives Muri crazy.  And while I love jazz, much of it, Muri would call … well … Noise.   If I’m near someone in a restaurant who’s chewing loudly, it takes all my willpower not to shout, Chew with your %$#(* mouth closed.   Others don’t even notice.

We can probably come up with a Rogues Gallery of sounds we can all agree are Noise: Weed-Whackers; leaf blowers; finger nails on chalkboards (shiver).   According to an article in Scientific American, certain frequencies between 2000 and 4000 Hz … right in the middle of the range of human speech … contribute most to making a sound unpleasant.  Maybe that’s why certain voices drive me crazy.  When these frequencies are removed from a sound, listeners report then as less unpleasant.  They also found that rough sounds in which there are random variations in loudness contribute to unpleasantness of a sound.  It is no surprise that our Rogues gallery of sounds fall into both these categories.   However, an article in ScienceNow says that knowing the source of the sound contributes as well … people told a sound is part of a modern musical composition are more likely to call it pleasant, even though their physiological reactions to the sound don’t change.  We are apparently a species for which everything is subjective.  I like birds. Chirping is pleasant, regardless of frequencies.  Go figure.  Still, everyone oughta like jazz.

So, what sounds do you find most annoying?   Personally, I find the sound of a reader fleeing Bud’s Blog without clicking my button** …. gently … to make me Number One on Top Sites Tuesday #156 one of the most unpleasant sounds in the world.  So, as Nike says, Just Do It!

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9 Comments on “Noise”

  1. cherperz Says:

    Interesting! I rarely think of noise unless I am trying to sleep and my neighbors 5 teens and 20 somethings are out on their deck whooping it up. During the day, I tend to block all the ambient noise out. My husband get’s irritated if the neighbors mow the lawn on Sunday morning before 8AM. I could care less, Birds…good, dogs…ok unless it goes on for hours or if it is 3AM.

    What I do notice is that when we are out on our farm or anywhere in a rural area at night…the absence of all ambient noise feels odd. Not bad, pleasant really…but strangely odd. The complete lack of any noise is so rare that it doesn’t feel right.

  2. Aleta Says:

    I have bad hearing, so I live in a quiet world. I know this, because I was once fitted for a hearing aid and I just about jumped out of my skin several times throughout the day. I felt like a scared rabbit! Needless to say, I’m doing without the hearing aid now 🙂

    When you mentioned Alaska and the cruise, you brought back good memories. My husband and I took a cruise to Alaska as well. You’re right… it was silent. Beautiful, quiet … silent 🙂

    For me, I can’t stand the lawnmower sounds. And I never realized how loud my neighborhood can be with cars driving down the street or planes flying…. until I started taking quick video shots of the garden work I’m doing… and I hear the noise in the background.

    I do prefer quiet. (Whereas my husband has to have the television on or a radio on….)

    • oldereyes Says:

      What an interesting viewpoint! I can only imagine how loud the world would seem to someone who hasn’t been able to hear it. Sensory overload! Thanks for commenting.

  3. Coming East Says:

    I’m not fond of snoring, and fortunately, I don’t sleep with a snorer. I’m not fond of screaming toddlers, the ones having tantrums, though little babies crying doesn’t bother me a bit. I love the sound of the ocean, and I love bird chirping, too. Enjoyed this post, Bud.

  4. You’ve read my rants about the guy I work with who is louder than any human I’ve ever heard and says rude, annoying things on top of that. That’s one. I’m not sure about other sounds that truly annoy me; it’s more like the repetition of sound that annoys me. I don’t mind the sound of a child screeching across the street on the playground if it only happens once or twice, but that one kid who is constantly shrieking the same phrase over and over and over and over and over, above the din of the rest of the kids? He makes me NUTS. Same goes for the teacher who is always yelling.

  5. Jeni Hill Ertmer Says:

    The chalk thing annoys me and people who “slurp” their soup or drinks.(My ex-husband knew it made my stomach turn a bit when he would eat soup like that so, of course, now you know what he did even louder then, don’t ‘cha? Children screaming? Hmmm. Living as I do with two children -both with autism -and when they were younger, there was frequently a whole lot of screaming going on here! Not so much now but occasionally, they take a step back in time and do some shrieking/crying -like the little guy did last night when he got up to make a bathroom call but he couldn’t articulate to me why he was crying/screaming that way. His mother didn’t hear any of it though so she must have had ear plugs in. Now my son’s girlfriend’s little guy shrieks frequently -has yet to discover an “indoor voice” and his shrieking and shrill screaming often do annoy me. But,a neighbor up the street just rebuilt a really sharp mustang -don’t know the year -but man, it is really cool and he tools around the streets here now and then with it just purring and then, goes to the hill street behind our house and tromps it to the floor and that baby just SCREAMS but that noise doesn’t bother me at all. Matter of fact, I really enjoy hearing Doug’s car being put through its paces! But I HATE the buzzing sound of the smaller type motorcycles or motorbikes and the really loud rumbles of the four-wheelers racing down the street too. Not pretty at all to me! Go figure, huh?

  6. territerri Says:

    One of my least favorite sounds? The television. It seems like it’s always on and those who watch it can’t seem to keep it on one channel. And with all the reality programming, there is too much BEEPING coming from the t.v.!

    One of my favorite sounds is the sound of the freight trains that travel through the neighborhood just a few blocks away. When we first moved in, I worried they would keep me awake. Now the sound of a train is comforting.

    Clicked your button!

  7. Wolfbernz Says:

    Hi Bud,

    I think people chewing with their mouth open has got to be one of the worst sounds, especially when it’s quiet and all you can hear is them chomping away.


  8. Trina Says:

    Noise… Noise… I suppose that the worst noise for me is unnecessary electronics. Like a TV that’s on with no one watching it or a cell phone at dinner are really unnerving. But I also find these sounds annoying: a running car with no one in it, the unsteady rattle of a box fan, the clicking of expanding metal as the day heats up, the dingy bouncing off the side of the boat, a halyard clanging loudly off the mast in a wind storm, some one snoring when I’m trying to sleep, someone talking to me when I’m trying to enjoy quiet (or when I’m trying to blog), annoying children ( you know what I mean – the whiners and criers and screamers)….

    Some of my favorite noises include water rushing past the hull of the boat, dolphins swimming near the boat and echo-sounding our location, the whir of Air Conditioning, the hum of a steady, strong motor, the constant clicking of fingers on the computer keyboard….

    Happy Tuesday!

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