Hell is other people

Yes. The answer is yes.

The battleground.

And the question is: Are noise-filled carriages bad for your health? Hannah Jane Parkinson, The Guardian, is righteously appalled about a bone-headed idea floated by UK railway company South Western Railways which is considering getting rid of quiet carriages.  For some of us–raises hand as high as one can–quiet cars on Amtrak and state-run transit are the one of the few saving graces of an increasingly overused, underfunded public transit system here in the U.S. So reading that   South Western Railways may kill quiet carriages not due to lack of interest but because “[t]he rise of mobile phones, loud music players and a general lack of etiquette mean that quiet zones are now virtually unenforceable,” is an absolute outrage.

Parkinson writes that some people think that quietness is overrated [Ed: monsters!] and says that “[p]sychotherapist and writer Philippa Perry suggests that we are becoming frightened of quietness, possibly as a result of technology.” But Parkinson sides with those of us who just want a moment that isn’t filled with layers of unavoidable sound, even suggesting prison sentences for the sound-loving louts who would rob the rest of us of just a few seconds of peace:

Seven years. That’s the minimum prison sentence that should apply to people on public transport who listen to music through their phone speakers (also known as “sodcasting”) – with two years for banal phone conversations that never end.

We agree, and would suggest similar sentencing guidelines for people wearing headphones who sing along, badly, to whatever they are listening to and those who set their phone volume to 11 and engage the tapping sound on their phone keyboards.

In the end, though, we can’t and shouldn’t avoid all sound, but the artificial sounds imposed on us by marketing miscreants and social louts can be controlled. Instead of getting rid of quiet cars on trains, why not make them all quiet except for one loud car for the uncaring and boorish? Tired of trying to eat a meal in peace only to have some miscreant spend his or her entire meal shouting into their smart phone? Interpose yourself into the conversation by offering unsolicited advice or agreeing with the unseen person on the other end. And refuse to give a dime of encouragement to the amateur “entertainers” who leap onto your subway car just as the doors close, armed with a boom box or bongos–yes, really–with the intent of destroying your sanity for the next three minutes.

People have begun to accept that noise is normal and that wanting quiet is some quirky affectation. But noise isn’t normal and should not be the default. We need to push back against the bad behavior of the noise makers and reclaim our public spaces.  So demand more quiet cars. Ask someone to stop shouting into their phone.  And know you are not alone.

Think before you honk

Photo credit: Erik Drost licensed under CC BY 2.0

Silence the Horns has written a thoughtful piece on horn-honking in New York City. No doubt other cities are similarly plagued by this relentless and pointless noise, but in New York City it is an endless, soul-crushing litany and no one in power is doing anything to stop it. Silence the Horns posits that horn honking is a form of aggression, bullying at its loudest, and we agree.  They write:

It is troubling that in a city like New York, groups of commuters can throw tantrums in their cars, bullying three-year-olds with their horns, and not one legislator steps up and says, “Enough is enough.” It is also troubling that so many are forced to listen to hours of horn honking tantrums outside their homes on residential streets while others in the same city are blessed with relative quiet day and night, often due to chance. Would we accept this tantrum throwing behavior standing in line at the supermarket, or the bank? No way. Why is it acceptable to bully others while sitting in a vehicle?

The answer, of course, is that it isn’t acceptable for a relative handful of bullies to disturb everyone else’s peace and quiet, and the time has long been ripe for a governmental response. But given the level of governmental dysfunction in this era, is it reasonable to expect change?

We believe change is inevitable, as study after study shows that noise exposure adversely affects health and wellbeing. So what can you do? Silence the Horns notes that “[e]veryone is somebody’s constituent,” and suggests you start locally and work your way on up.  If enough of us remain engaged, change will come. 

Click here to read the entire piece.  It’s well worth your time.

 

‘Tis the season…for nonstop Xmas music

Photo credit: Jim Moore licensed under CC BY 2.0

But in what can only be termed a Christmas miracle, a couple of chain stores are offering respite from the annual holiday assault: AutoZone and Costco are your only sanctuaries from Christmas music this winter.  Actually, Amy X. Wang, Quartz, reports that there are two more kind souls, GameStop and WinCo Foods, that have opted to spare their customers from the endless aural assault.

And after calling around, Wang prepared a list showing when various national retailers plan on turning up the Xmas volume. While most retailers exercised some restraint by waiting until Thanksgiving before turning on the forced holiday cheer, Best Buy cruelly began playing Xmas tunes on October 22nd. We grieve for their employees.

Link via Greg, founder of the Soundprint app, the “Yelp for Noise!”

Madrid’s noisy nightlife is keeping residents awake

Photo credit: Jorge Díaz licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This interesting report documents complaints about noise in Spain’s capital city, Madrid.

It turns out that in Madrid making noise when and where one wants has an aspect of political expression that may be present in other cities and other countries but has special relevance in Spain. Franco’s Minister of the Interior coined the phrase, “[t]he street is mine.”  And the police dispersed any group of more than three people.

When democracy returned to Spain, leaders in Madrid made a lively street scene part of their newfound freedom. The mayor coined the phrase, “Madrid nunca duerme”- Madrid never sleeps.

And now that’s a problem.

All regulations restrict someone’s freedom. But if we are to live in increasingly dense and crowded environments, people can’t be free to do something that adversely affects others. After all, everyone must sleep sometime.

Smoking may be a useful example. People in the U.S. and Europe still have the right to smoke, but they can’t smoke where others have to smell and breathe their smoke.

And that’s how it should be with noise. People should have to right to deafen themselves with personal music players, or attend rock concerts, or patronize noisy clubs. They can ride loud motorcycles, too, but not where others can hear them.

Because people shouldn’t have the right to disrupt the lives of others with their noise.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.

Why do people hate leaf blowers?

 

Leaf blower overkill  |  Photo credit: Hector Alejandro licensed under CC BY 2.0

Because everything about them is so awful!

Well, that’s just our opinion. , howstuffworks.com, gives a more detailed answer. Dove starts by noting that “unlike lawn mowers, leaf blowers are probably the most villainized devices in the lawn care universe,” because they are now used year-round and for many–most?–the noise level they create is unacceptable. As a result, when leaf blowers first became common in the U.S., Dove says two California communities, Carmel-by-the-Sea and Beverly Hills, banned leaf blowers back in the 1970s.  And they have been followed since then by hundreds of communities nationwide that have banned or limited their use.

Why are leaf blowers so hateful? Dove asks and answers:

What is it about leaf blowers that people hate? Is it the decibels? The constancy? Do leaf blowers pose real dangers to the health of users or others who happen to be within earshot? Increasingly, the answer appears to be “yes” —to all of the above.

In the end, leaf blowers create a whirlwind of dust that includes, among other things, dried animal feces, molds, and fungi. Gasoline-powered leaf blowers emit a litany of horribles, including benzene, a known carcinogen. And then there is the noise, which is not merely a nuisance but also a serious health threat.

As for those who would ask how we could possibly deal with fallen leaves without leaf blowers, may we suggest the following:

Photo credit: Carol VanHook licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

Rakes are a healthier, cheaper, and quieter alternative to the loud, filthy, and dangerous leaf blowers we’ve put up with for entirely too long.

 

Anti-social miscreant charged criminally

for being an anti-social miscreant: Man charged for playing car stereo too loud. No doubt there may be some who assume the cops in Central Saanich on Vancouver Island, Canada, have too much time on their hands and too little work to do.

And they would be wrong.

Although Dustin Hamilton, the offender, claims he didn’t mean to annoy people, well, let’s just say certain facts belie his feigned innocence. Like the fact that his “car is equipped with a decibel reader and he says he plays it at 150.” Or that he boasted to Asymina Kantorowicz, writer/producer at CTV News, that his sound system can reach 155 decibels. To give you an idea about how loud that is, according to Dangerous Decibels, a jet plane at 100 feet away is around 135 decibels, and the permissible listening time for someone exposed to 115 decibels is under 30 seconds. It’s a wonder he can even hear.

And then there’s the bit about the number of neighbors filing complaints. Said Hamilton, “[i]f somebody just came up to me nicely saying ‘hey I live here this is what’s happening’ you know we could do that but I never had that, I just had a guy follow me and try and assault me,” adding, “[i]t went from that to basically 17 people complaining and a mischief charge.” From one guy trying to assault him to 17 complaints, and he has no idea why.

Hamilton’s charge comes with certain conditions, like not contacting the complainants and not driving on certain roads. No surprise he is put out, as is his girlfriend, who likes her music as loud as he does, reminding us of the adage, “there’s a lid for every pot.”

In the end, Hamilton would claim that the reason for the crazy loud music isn’t some sociopathic need to torment his neighbors. No, for Hamilton it comes down to this: “I can play anything, rap, hip-hop, it all sounds good … I love sound man.”

Not for long, Hamilton.

Thanks to Jan L. Mayes for the link.

The Brits sure take their noise complaints seriously:

 

Photo credit: InfoGibraltar licensed under CC BY 2.0

Warrant issued for the arrest of a noisy neighbour. A warrant may seem a bit much, but it came after the offender failed to appear in court to address “12 reports of noise nuisance including raised voices and loud music, banging and stamping.” Apparently the neighborhood miscreant was so loud that complaints came not only in his apartment block, but in adjacent blocks as well. And while some may think issuing a warrant for his arrest is a bit extreme, Councillor Sam Lisle, executive member for housing and safer neighbourhoods, notes:

“Noise nuisance can blight people’s lives so we support people who report it and will take action against those who create it.

We offer lots of advice and information about acceptable noise levels so there is no excuse.”

Hear, hear!

 

Another reason to avoid fast food and chain restaurants

Photo credit: Mike Mozart licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

My wife and I don’t eat in restaurants much anymore–the vast majority are just too noisy to enjoy both the meal and the conversation–and we don’t patronize fast food or chain restaurants. Burgers and fries and sodas are just not healthy food, and I try to stay healthy.

But for those who do, according to Culture Cheat Sheet noise is a major problem, joining a list of complaints that includes dirty spaces, bad service, and bad food. Culture Cheat Sheet cobbled together survey results from Consumer Reports, the American Customer Satisfaction Index, and Temkin Experience Ratings to come up with their report on the most hated restaurant and fast food chains.

Most fast food and chain restaurants use a formula of tasty but unhealthy food with too much fat, too much sugar, too much salt, and too many calories at a relatively low price to lure customers.

Research shows a clear correlation between the density of fast food restaurants in neighborhoods–largely poor neighborhoods populated by African-American and Hispanic people–and obesity. The epidemic of obesity in the U.S. is related to changes in eating patterns–fast food, sugary sodas, bigger portions–and decreased exercise.

But now it appears that these restaurants also serve up a side order of hearing loss with their food. Because noise is causing an epidemic of noise-induced hearing loss, too.

And that’s another reason to avoid these restaurants.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.

Canadian man fined for loudly singing

 

Here’s how you sing in a car responsibly!  |   Photo credit: nikoretro licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Everybody Dance Now. The BBC reports that a Canadian man was pulled over and ticketed by Montreal police for “screaming in a public place” after “being caught singing in his car.” He is contesting the ticket, which is no laughing matter–$149 Canadian, which is a little under $120 U.S. Taoufik Moalla, 38, doesn’t dispute that he was singing in his car. Rather he claims that his singing “wasn’t loud enough to disturb anyone.” Apparently the Montreal police would disagree, although it is unclear from the article whether the reason for the ticket was loudness or his musical taste.

While there may be disagreement about whether the police action was justified, we think most would agree that this is criminal: Mr. Moalla was in his car driving to  the grocery store to buy a bottle of water.

Surely that should have earned him a second ticket.

Noise can make you deaf

Photo credit: UrbanUrban_ru licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

And the Hindustan Times, knowing this, advises its readers: This Diwali, turn a deaf ear to noise.

Diwali is happening now, so enjoy the sigts–and some of the sounds–and don’t forget to pack some disposable earplugs for yourself, your friends, and family.