Will someone please turn down the volume on the planet! Why is it so loud? Where's the remote? I can't stand this din a minute longer.
Does the word "tinnitus" ring a bell? It's a wonder any of us has any hearing left at all. How long will it be before we all become deaf as the Sphinx because of the noise pollution that permeates our environment?
Okay, so some of it serves a purpose. In the case of the cacophony of police and ambulance sirens and smoke alarms, for example, the benefits outweigh the potential damage to our ear drums. But other noise sources such as blaring stereos and ultra-sensitive car alarms that shriek even when no burglary is in progress, and which everyone ignores, have no redeeming value.
When did this all happen? It wasn't like this in 1697. No, I don't remember personally, but William Congreve wrote back then that "Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast." Today, on the other hand, much of what passes for music sounds as if it emanates from savage beasts. (Consider the aptly named "Beastie Boys," for example.) Instead of enchanting, harmonious melodies, we hear raucous roars, screeching screams, dissonant discord that assault us from our neighbors' stereos, car radios on the highway, boom boxes on the streets and beaches, loudspeaker systems in shopping malls. It's impossible to carry on a conversation any more in a restaurant, a bar, at a party or a wedding reception. And, of course, adding to the din is the caterwaul of human voices, as we all bellow to make ourselves heard. The more ear-splitting the "music," the louder we yell.
There is no escape. Whatever you do, don't make the mistake of slipping into a movie theater for some respite from the roar of the crowd. The features are noisy enough, but much worse are the clamorous, surround-sound previews. Why must they turn the decibels up to maximum volume when showing a blurry kaleidoscope of the most violent scenes from future attractions? It's downright painful. I've asked ushers and managers roving the lobby about this, and my answer is always the same: "People like it." Really? Then how come I see most in the audience, young and old alike, blocking their ears and wincing? Actually, it's a turn-off. If I hate the sample, I certainly won't be tempted to see the entire film. These days when I decide to go to a movie, it's usually in spite of-not because of-the preview.
If the hullabaloo continues to escalate, the next generation of toddlers will be wearing hearing aids to pre-school where they will learn sign language. Before long, all noise will end. Talking will become obsolete since we won't be able to hear what anyone says, music will just be something people will read about in history books, and silent movies will make a big comeback. The good news is that there will be no need to buy costly quadraphonic sound systems, and cars will be less expensive because they won't have radios or horns.
I'm almost looking forward to it.
Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.