What noise?

Yes, another NYC story, but a short one.

I’d been there with a friend for several days.

At one point as we waited to cross a busy street, she cupped her ears. It turned out she’d been bothered all week by the noise.  

“What noise?” I asked.

She meant the soothing sounds of taxis; cars honking; buses; industrial motors, generators, and fans; crowds of people; alarms; jackhammers. All music to my ears. As opposed to the quiet suburbs where silence is broken only by the occasional ear-splitting lawn sprinkler.

What’s noise and what’s soothing background?

It goes back to childhood, I believe. My bedroom window growing up was about 3 feet from a bar/pizza parlor. I fell asleep to the sounds of the jukebox. Later, I had a nearly 2-hour commute to college in Boston. For 4 years, I did my calculus homework on the famous MTA, often with one arm slung around a pole, always with chatter all around me.

For me, noise provides stimulus to write and a reassuring background to sleep. If it’s too quiet, I can’t relax, neither to write nor to rest. Where is everyone? I wonder. Maybe I should get up and look around.

How many decibels does it take for you to feel comfortable?


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