(First published in The Dominion Post, July 25.)
I AM AWARE that what I am about to write will result in me being branded a cantankerous misanthrope, and possibly even a bit mad. What the heck.As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed myself developing a visceral aversion to noise. Not all noise; just certain noises.
Some sudden, intrusive sounds provoke what I can only describe as an involuntary, irrational rage.I swear, for example, that if I had a machine gun, no boy racer would be safe. In my wilder flights of fancy I picture myself lying in wait to ambush them. I would shoot first and worry about the consequences later.
In my mind I replay the famous scene at the end of Bonnie and Clyde in which the outlaw couple’s Ford is left so riddled with bullet holes that it looks like a colander.The practical problem I have to overcome is that boy racers don’t provide adequate warning of their approach. I might hear them doing drifts or donuts in my street at 2am, but by the time I got to the gate with my Uzi they’d be away and gone. But boy, I think about it.
Steady, droning-type noises, as opposed to loud, abrupt ones that come out of nowhere, don’t seem to bother me so much. At weekends, planes come and go constantly from the local aerodrome, but I never feel tempted to launch a surface-to-air missile from behind the potting shed.Motor mowers are acceptable too. All New Zealanders are genetically programmed to have a high tolerance of lawn mowers, otherwise we’d all go mad.
Chainsaws are more challenging. I live in what must be the chainsaw capital of the world. In other towns, kids get skateboards and X-boxes for their birthdays. In Masterton they get a Stihl or a Husqvarna. And I mean girls as well as boys.Chainsaws are part of the aural furniture here. There’s always one revving somewhere in the middle-distance. I accept this is one of the prices you pay for living in a rural town where everyone knows the price of a cord of macrocarpa, but I sometimes struggle to contain my irritation.
Constantly yapping dogs? They’re almost up there with boy racers on the vexation scale. The same goes for motorbikes, whether they’re Harley-Davidsons – which are engineered to announce their presence to everyone within a 2km-radius – or trail bikes, which are the 250cc equivalent of an infernal mosquito buzzing in your ear.Even the blackbirds in my garden drive me mad with their raucous alarm calls every time I go near them. That may sound a bit extreme, but the squawking of a startled blackbird is a sound calculated to rattle the nerves.
Tuis, on the other hand, are winningly euphonious, demonstrating that it’s not noise in itself that’s offensive, but the type of noise.I’m on a roll now. What else?
● People eating in movie theatres – and not just their noisy munching, which is bad enough, but the infuriating rustle of the bags containing whatever rubbish they’re consuming. Rustling bags are another of those sounds that induce homicidal impulses. The Uzi solution might be a bit extreme in this instance, and there’s always the risk that you might hit the wrong person in the dark, but a Taser might do it.● All-night parties, especially ones where all you hear is the tuneless thump of bass and drums. The politician who promises to throw all-night partiers into prison without the time-wasting formality of a court appearance is assured of my vote.
● The unnecessary use of car horns. The horn is a device to be used in situations where human life is in imminent danger, and then only sparingly. (In other words, there should be a lightning-quick assessment as to whether the life at risk is worth saving.) All other applications are a crime against humanity – and there are no exemptions for morons who get an infantile thrill from tooting in the Mt Victoria Tunnel.● Cellphones with idiotic ring tones. Phones that sound like phones are acceptable at a pinch, provided the volume is kept down. Phones that play Greensleeves or the theme from Beverly Hills Cop are beyond the pale.
Am I being flippant? Well, perhaps with regard to shooting people – but otherwise, not entirely. Most intrusive noise is avoidable. The people who cause it show a lack of consideration for others and a disregard for their privacy. We should all be far less tolerant of it.