I’m not sure if an aversion to excessive noise is a hallmark of the introverted personality, but I do know that few things set me on edge more than exposure to constant, chaotic noise (making the ear-splitting renovation hubbub going on below our apartment for the past few weeks such a joy). It could be this sensitivity that leads me to pay more attention to any mention of noise, or it could be that there is a particular convergence around this issue in the global consciousness, but whatever the case, I’ve found that noise (or the absence of it) has been making the news a lot lately.
First the bad news: the International Herald Tribune reports that the ambient noise level in Cairo has gotten so bad that every conversation on the street must be conducted in screams. As the city grows in population, the din from traffic, public ceremonies, and hawkers struggling to be heard, has resulted in a daytime average noise level of 85 decibels, or “a bit louder than a freight train at a distance of 15 feet, or 4.6 meters.”
Less bad, but still not great: According to some, hybrid and electric cars don’t make sufficient noise to warn pedestrians (especially the visually impaired) of their approach. A bill to address this problem may soon be proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives, under the terms of which automakers may one day be required to build vehicles that produce a minimum level of noise. I’m all for strengthening public safety on the roads, but I’d have to see more data about the actual risk before being convinced that this is a good idea. In the meantime, maybe some lawmaker could introduce a bill to reduce the amount of noise cars are allowed to make. I’m sure there’d be a market for those cars in Cairo.
Potentially encouraging: A new movie starring Tim Robbins as an anti-noise vigilante has recently been released in the U.S.. Noise shows the transformation of Robbins’s character from an ordinary New Yorker into the rampaging ‘Rectifier,’ who expresses his frustration with blaring car alarms by destroying the offending vehicles. The movie has gotten mixed reviews; not having seen it I can’t speak for or against it (although I am wary of the glorification of vigilantism), but I would be pleased if it expanded the conversation about the problem of noise pollution in some way.
And finally inspiring news: The phenomenon of silent raves has been around for a few years, but recently it seems to have gained some momentum in the States. A silent rave took place in New York’s Union Square in April, drawing hundreds of participants. And what is a silent rave? It’s similar to an ordinary rave, in that strangers gather to listen to music and dance together, except that at a silent rave, everyone is listening to their own personal dance mix (through headphones, naturally). I love this idea because it combines public partying (which even as an introvert I can get into) with respect for everyone’s space, and bears an interesting resemblance to quiet parties.