Shhhh! Just A Little Quiet Please
Years of putting up with plenty of loud noise has apparently eroded my level of tolerance
An old woman lived next door to the south of us on Clinton Place when I was growing up. We called her Old Lady Lucy, because, well, that was what she was. She wasn’t the sweet kind of old lady, the cookie-serving type who smiled and waved at us from her rocking chair on the front porch. No, she was the finger-wagging, shouting-at-you-to-be-quiet kind of old lady. Punitive, cruel, mean. Scary.
She was our childhood nemesis. And now I am her.
I don’t know when I turned into someone who is bothered by other people screaming in public, but I am one now. I can take anyone’s shouting as a fan at sporting events or concerts. I understand unbridled enthusiasm. But the run of the mill screaming for the sake of it? Nope.
You know what I mean — the backyard gatherings where people turn up the music and scream to each other. These now drive me batty, particularly if the venue and the noise origin is a party I am not invited to and it is happening on my block.
I do not know how or when exactly it is that I came to inhabit the land of crabby oldladydom, but I am now a proponent of public noise abstinence. I thought hearing acuity was supposed to diminish as I got older. Not for me, noises bother me more.
This does not make sense. I happen to know that my own three children were very loud. For many years. They were loud to everyone — me, the neighbors, their friends, each other. Inside, outside, private sites, public places.
Of course, there was good loud and bad loud. The good was the laughing kind of loud, the happy eruptions of shouting in a backyard football or basketball game, the joyful bursts of screaming about the hose, the slip and slide, the inflatable pool, the water guns. Good noise.
The bad loud, on the other hand, was fighting, probably swearing — yes, definitely swearing. Then I would go outside or shout to the basement to remind the boys and their friends not to say those words. And to say, “Shhh, please be quieter.” It did not usually help. The noise stopped when it stopped and usually the change in decibels had nothing to do with my interventions.
So it is ironic — OK, let’s just get right to it and say it is hypocritical — that really, really loud middle school age children and screaming teenagers get on my nerves. Other people’s kids making tons of noise now turns me into a lunatic — someone who wants to tap on the window, then open it and shout, “Keep it down!”
Let me qualify this. I do not mind at all screeching infants on planes. I recall the ear-splintering pain of my own three sons when their ears would pop on takeoff and landing. So I am sympathetic. I even coo. Maybe not so much when it is an expensive restaurant, but I am most assuredly not the person who would make a stink, nor the one who gives dirty looks to the distraught parents.
So if loud noise is coming from a child younger than 10, I don’t get upset. But the tweens, pre-teens and mid-teens who yell and carry on so loudly in line at the movies, on trains, walking down the street, in the yard next door? They drive me completely crazy and make me think extremely unkind thoughts. I’m one breath away from calling these unapologetically loud kids “whippersnappers.”
I believe Old Lady Lucy called us “hooligans.” I never wanted to be her. So as I see myself turn into the crazy old lady wagging her finger and telling the youngsters to quiet down, it is baffling. How did I morph into the intolerant neighbor who just wants to sit on the porch and read? I used to be cool.
Perhaps my ears are worn out from the years of loud noise in my own house. Perhaps my ears want a vacation. As the weather warms up this spring and the boy next door takes to screaming, “NO!” at his parents all weekend and shouting torments at his little sister, I want to put on my ear buds with classical music playing so I can tune it all out.
So maybe I am just a crabby old lady with low noise tolerance. If you care to chide me, all I ask is that you do so in a whisper.Edit Module