The sound and the fury

May 13, 2009 at 5:00 am

For a little while longer, it’s springtime in one of the most beautiful cities in the country.

The blossoms of the Bradford Pear have already been carried away in weather-pattern swarms. Folks in hopelessly goofy sandals and short pants walk down to the café, or post up on stoops, to enjoy a few daytime beers with friends. They talk and, if they like each other enough, stop talking for a while to hear the sounds that were muted during the long and shuttered winter.

The lonely whistling of wind through naked branches has been replaced by and by with the persistent rustle of new leaves shouldering each other for a little more time in the sun. The chatter of birds settling into new digs blends seamlessly with the sound of kids finally playing in the yard and folks hollering out the windows of their walk-ups, “Wait for me. I’ll be right down.”

Women doused in expensive perfume jog in the park (this is factual) and shirtless men do the same. Folks strut along the sidewalks of the River City winking and nodding, tripping over their words and their dog leashes in an annual and compulsory mating dance that hopes to saunter but usually stumbles toward lunch and maybe dinner, holding hands and possibly a kiss.

It’s not all birdsong, sweetness and light petting though, friends.

With spring we’re also confronted with a distinctly darker and louder side of the human, and particularly male, need to assert dominance: aggressive and intentional noise pollution.

Yes, spring marks the season opener of Dudes on Loud-Ass Motorcycles and Gs With Giant Speaker Boxes. They, like maniacal surgeons, gleefully amputate the sounds of spring from our ears.

It is an impressive but unholy union that seems to have bent every perceptible frequency toward darkness. Subwoofers, at lung-collapsing low frequencies, bash our guts and inflict a seismic blow to the human will to carry on. American Hogs recreate Sherman’s March in miniature by torching every cilia of the inner ear, pillaging hope for conversational hearing as they go. By the time we realize a Japanese crotch-rocket or 10 have come and gone, our eardrums have been cleft in twain as easily as a Ginsu knife services a ripe tomato. As the sound of a single mosquito can be enough to drive a person to madness, so too does the moped destroy what is left with irony alone.

When I’m forced (invariably in mid-sentence) to jam my fingers in my ears and duck under a table like a child, in the moment immediately preceding a flawless fit of cursing, I try and steel myself by thinking about how much I love loud music, and how undeniably cool motorcycles are, how it’s not anyone’s fault that we live in a culture of auto-fanatics and audiophiles. My ire isn’t directed at the machine, or the music, but at the man and, most importantly, his intentions.

I think of the offending parties as three distinct classes, one of which is physically deaf motorcyclists who probably won’t be convinced that any of this is a very big deal and so will be ignored for now.

I suspect that the majority of the people in question (referred to hereafter as “Enthusiasts”) are not malicious in the least. Their intention is only to listen to their music or ride their motorbikes in the way that is most enjoyable to them. Enthusiasts are, I guess, simply unaware that their enjoyment amounts to remotely punching people in the face up and down the block. I have friends who are Enthusiasts, and I expect that I’ll hear from them soon.

The other class, (referred to hereafter as “Assholes”) is composed of bush-league sociopaths whose intention, it seems, is to actively antagonize their neighbors. They cruise what must be an uncomfortable line between challenging every living thing in a two-block radius to a fistfight and avoiding actually getting in one, simultaneously trying to impress women and maybe even talk with them.

In this last point the answer is found and regretfully it falls on the shoulders of you civic-minded ladies out there. Conversation is impossible amid the type of noise described above, and these guys want to talk to women. To do so they’ll have to turn off their gear.

Sorry ladies, you’re going to have to talk to these Assholes.