Noise Cancelling: The Plight of the Urban Refugee

We’re ready. Pacing. Mentally moving furniture. However, we have another month and a half to do so with our mid-January closing date. On the flip side, Kim and I have maxed out our days off with recreational window shopping. We’ve sized up bar stools, sketched out kitchen islands and sourced salvaged wood warehouses for the perfect planks for our tabletop. This is monumentally more enjoyable than the highs and lows of scouring MLS listings for our dream house.

Now that we have the house part secured, we can indulge in the fun elements of moving into a new (150-years-old/new) place like listening to Bose home theatre sound systems, finding the perfect mill cart for a coffee table and eyeballing wooden wine crates for a project we have in mind.

As the date approaches, we (mostly me) are beginning to let certain annoyances become amplified. Once you have a deadline for annoying things coming to an end, it’s easier to bitch and complain about them. I know that it’s now temporary. However, my normally high patience threshold is becoming increasingly challenged. All of this is the ammunition that is propelling our move out of the city. Largely, it’s the noise.

I have lived above, below and between people for too many years. I cannot wait to crank Madison Violet at any time of day or night, just because I can. I no longer have to be courteous or ever-conscious of those above or below or between. Soon we will be able to watch movies at MOVIE THEATRE SURROUND SOUND LEVELS. Currently, I find myself letting Tostitos dissolve on my tongue during the dialogue bits of movies because crunching the chips will mute out the church mouse-friendly sound entirely. We’ve taken to renting sub-title flicks for this reason. Hyper-aware of the early bedtime of the upstairs tenants, we can still watch movies without disturbing them.  A pesar de quetenemos que leerlas películas. رغم ان لدينا لقراءة الأفلام.

Not that I’m a loud person to begin with, but, I like knowing that I can be. I like to do dishes at midnight and shower at 2am if need be. Sometimes my best sweeping is done around 3:30am. Being respectful of other tenants has been doable, but, trying.  And, yes, I know that I have probably miffed them off in equal measure—especially when the dryer buzzer lets out its heart-attack-inducing end-of-cycle BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzz in the absolute dead of the night.

Photo credit: Tommy Vohs www.bloodshotmirage.com

Photo credit: Tommy Vohs http://www.bloodshotmirage.com

Living and renting in the city naturally equates noise. However, my initial concern of living on the subway line that barrels past every two minutes at peak service subsided immediately. The subway and its mild vibration felt in my apartment is white noise now. The only time I am aggravated is around 5:40am, when I hear the system start up again. Which means I’ve usually only been asleep for two hours, and I don’t have much sleeping time left.

What does not constitute as white noise would be the very energetic tenants upstairs who do morning wind sprints (Kim recognized and identified the rapid back and forth movements as such). They’re not late night revellers, but, worse, they are morning revellers. They are firm believers that the early bird gets the worm.  Shortly after the subway lurches along the Bloor line at 5:40, the tenants begin wind sprinting. They stop moving when we get up. It’s a very perplexing timing syndrome.

This of course is nothing compared to the Legend of Stompy. Remember the tenant with strong affection for Yo Yo Ma and wearing cement blocks on her feet? Who left her clothes in the washer for three days so they’d be so sour and ripe she’d have to start the cycle all over again—only to leave them in the dryer for another three days? Now, that was loud and obnoxious at its best. She once gave me a slice of slightly burnt banana bread as an ironic “peace” offering. Even a weekly loaf of banana bread for the rest of my life wouldn’t suffice. My cortisol levels were at a record count until she moved out and stomped on to ruin someone else’s peace and quiet.

I was beginning to have dangerous flashbacks of the 2004 pyscho drama Noise with Ally Sheedy and Trish Goff. Let’s just say the plot didn’t involve such niceties as banana bread.

And don’t even get me started on the fridge. My landlord replaced the former behemoth that was moaning so loudly I had to start shutting my bedroom door at night because it kept me awake. I don’t have the heart to tell him that the new fridge is actually louder than the last. When did they start making them with Boeing 747 motors? When it finally stops its chill cycle (it’s not even busy making ice cubes, it’s just maintaining itself and our shelf of beer and five blocks of cheese), I can feel my shoulders relax. My heart rate returns to normal. Even when I’m alone I find myself saying “finally!” out loud. The fridge actually interrupts conversation. Don’t even try to whisper sweet nothings in its vicinity.

I want the quiet pollution of a small town. Life on the river with real, live birds as a soundtrack—not ringing cell phones and car alarms and horns and sirens and jackhammers.

When Kim and I were in Egypt last year, our pal Mohammed picked us up at 4:30am so we could drive out to witness the most serene sunrise over the salt lake in the Siwa Oasis. It was so quiet there that our ears almost hurt, straining to hear something. The stillness was startling.

It was quiet as a tomb in the White Desert as well. As comforting as certain sounds can be, the absence of sound in the desert is a remarkable experience.

It will be as remarkable as not having to listen to this fridge, the subway and morning wind sprints.

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Categories: Home Sweet Home, Polyblogs in a Jar | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Noise Cancelling: The Plight of the Urban Refugee

  1. Hi Jules,

    Love your blog! You have some great stories and amazing photos. If you ever want to enter some in our contests at BarrelHopping, you can win some cash and get additional exposure to your work. Check us out when you have time and safe travels.

  2. travelnlass

    “…letting Tostitos dissolve on my tongue during the dialogue bits of movies because crunching the chips will mute out the church mouse-friendly sound entirely.”

    Love, love, LOVE your mot skills! The above excerpt is pure, sparkling diamond!

    And the post on urban vs. country so hits home for me here in Vietnam. I lived for nearly a year in Ho Chi Minh City (a.k.a. “4-mil-moto-bike-crazy-city”, indeed – the noise much akin to Times Square on STEROIDS!). But have recently moved up into the cooooool, greeeeeen hills of Dalat (about 8 hrs. by bus from Saigon). Now (ironically) it’s the BIRDS that are chirping so loudly they wake me up at the crack of dawn! 😉

    btw, would l.o.v.e. to follow you, but… any chance of unearthing an RSS feed button?

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