Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Annoyed by noise

Lerato Tshabalala wrote, in her column in last weekend’s Sunday Times Lifestyle, about how she’s ‘at that age where noise irritates me – especially where there shouldn’t be any’. Her example was how the experience of going to the movies is ruined by people who bring along inappropriately young kids, munch on popcorn, and chat to each other and on their cellphones during the show.

I’ve long been annoyed by unwelcome noise, and a few weeks ago, when on what should have been my daily dose of mountain serenity, I was so infuriated by it that I momentarily wished I had a blunderbuss handy. It was a Saturday morning and early enough for the sun to just be clearing the distant mountains, so the village below me was slumbering in weekend bliss. There was scattered birdsong, and the occasional far-off moos and baas of livestock.

Suddenly, from behind a patch of trees down on the other side of the village, a tremendous noise erupted. It sounded like 20 power mowers all being turned on at the same time, which in fact wasn’t far off the truth: it was a microlight, blundering up off the ground like a giant drunken bumblebee. This obnoxious machine revved its way clear over the village and up the side of the mountain, then motored along the scarp in a slow, infuriatingly loud manner. What was happening is that the SINGLE occupant of this stupid contraption was getting a lovely, long bird’s-eye view of the village and valley below, while encroaching in the most insufferable way on the peace of its 2 000-plus inhabitants.

It reminded me of a morning some time ago in Yzerfontein, which is a dozy little fishing village on the Cape West Coast where I used to own a flat. I woke up to the usual delightful low-key harmony of swishing waves and twittering seabirds, which was suddenly broken by an appalling noise, very similar to that of the microlight. Stumbling out onto the verandah and staring maniacally seawards, I spotted – a jetskiier. With due respect to those of you who own and ride jetskis, I can’t think of a more brainless way to pass time on the water – hairing at noisy high speed hither and thither. And, in this case too, this SINGLE individual was getting whatever thrills jetskiing gave him at the price of the peace of the +- thousand residents of the town.

Some animals, too, can be clamour-monsters, and the three little dachshunds who live over the road from me are currently in first place for noise pollution. They yap frantically at everything that moves and many things that don’t. So hectic are they, in fact, that if I open one of my kitchen windows (which give onto the road and face the house opposite), all three of them rush to their fence, splay their back legs and bark their bloody heads off at me. They drive everyone in our road crazy.

One of my own cats, Evan, is also a racket-hazard, although he only bothers me – if he’s shut in at night, he mews to be let out; if he’s shut out, he mews to be let in. I love him, but sometimes I truly hate him.

So I’d like to see one of the circles of hell reserved for people who make a noise where there shouldn’t be any: I’d like all microlighters and jetskiiers, and people who talk during movies, to be stuck permanently in a room together over the road from the three high-decibel dachshunds, with my cat Evan as permanent company, eternally whining to be let out or let in.

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