Noise is a subjective subject — one man’s music is another man’s madness-trigger. I happen to have sensitive ears, which is truly unfortunate, because I’m also a din-magnate. Loud, pointless clamor seeks me out wherever I am, and follows me wherever I go, gathering strength beneath the window in whichever room I happen to be occupying.
I’ve been keeping track of the racket sources, which have plagued me during the years I have lived in Capitol Hill. Commotion can occur at any time of day, on any day of the week, but usually, it commences in the wee hours, or from two-to-five minutes after I sit down to write, or have climbed into bed.
A partial list of the more common ones includes sand blasting; power-washing; leaf-blowing; motorcycle revving, that continues to rip through the afternoon, while the vehicle’s owner straddles the seat, dons his helmet, shouts a conversation at his neighbor over the noise, and then just sits there, gazing into space; smokers from the building across the street, who gather in a small crowd and take turns impersonating car alarms at the tops of their voices; the anonymous pyromaniac who randomly sets off M-80s at 3 a.m. on any day but the Fourth of July; Drug-addicted individuals, or persons who should be medicated and aren’t, who sit under my windows, drumming without rhyme or rhythm for 45 minutes on a discarded car part, or screaming invectives at their own feet; kids on skateboards, riding back and forth and back and forth on the sidewalk out front; people talking loudly on their smartphones at 1 a.m. on a weeknight, recounting the details of lewd acts they’ve committed in men’s rooms; jerks with loud car stereos, who pretend they’re in a restaurant, listening to bad music with the bass cranked up.
This is a sampling of what I get where I live now. Six years ago, I lived down the street from here, across a cul-de-sac from a duplex that was home to nine bartenders. They would throw parties on the deck when they got off work at 2 or 3 a.m., with such frequency that the cops eventually stopped responding to complaints. That was also where I was living when I got up in the middle of the night, dressed and went outside to find out what was making a noise that sounded like the Hound of the Baskervilles’ family reunion. That was more-or-less exactly what it was: a truck full of pit bulls. Seven of them. Barking hysterically every time the bartenders’ party guests drifted past their vehicle.
Why do these people get to decide on the personal aural wallpaper for the rest of us? Why are they so incredibly inconsiderate? Oh, who cares? I’m long past the curious stage. Let’s simply put an end to this kind of thing, by getting together and hiring our own cops, (not security guards. Cops) to sit outside our buildings at night and ensure the peace.
In a neighborhood so desperate for revenue that it’s doing away with street parking, this could be a win-win solution. People could call in to Capitol Hill’s Rent-a-Cop division and book one, two or more officers, by the night, week or month, to keep the streets and sidewalks quiet at night. Actually, I suppose one officer would be best, as two or more might start impersonating car alarms or talking loudly on their smartphones.
The cop that you rent could sit on a folding chair, reading or listening to music with one earbud, while enjoying a snack or a soda from a little portable cooler next to the chair. This person’s sole job will be to escort noise-makers off the block. It won’t matter if they go to another block; after all, you and your neighbors are paying the police person to ensure your collective sleep. Let the other blocks hire their own cops.
Noise affects everyone differently, and some of us mind it more than others. All I’m asking, is that you start noticing it more. Because once you notice it, it will start to irritate you. And when enough people are irritated, change will start to happen. Remember “Horton Hears a Who?” Sometimes one little yelp — mine, in this case — can make all the difference.