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February 23, 2019


Where can we go for deafening silence not deafening noise?

“Everyone is noisy anyway!,” a man tells me in his heavy German accent after I inform him to tone down the audio of the video he is watching on his smartphone. This was after he noisily chatted with his companion and I’m glad my German was not enough to understand everything.

Then he angrily pulled out his headset and wore it. Mind you, we are in an airport lounge where passengers are supposed to relax in a quiet area while awaiting their flight. I thought to myself, “may headset naman pala!” (So he’s got a headset anyway).

“Forgive him, for he is probably hard of hearing,” I told myself, biting my lip while thinking of what to say in my little knowledge of  German. I wanted to call my sister, talk to her in my rehearsed German phrases, let him overhear I understood his language (spoken and body) and leave him with him thinking  that he should be careful next time.

This is how life is now. It is a noisy world and people do not seem to mind. We no longer mind private spaces. We talk in loud voices because we are deaf or hard of hearing. We put these earbuds or headphones as part of our daily uniform. Is it because it is cool or because we want to shut ourselves from the noisy world?

Are we listening to music to calm us because of today’s frenetic pace? Are we (I bet not) listening to an audio book? Or like my friend who is unfriendly to seatmates in flight and puts on her headphones (even unplugged) just so no one talks to her or starts small talk?

Then we board the plane and I secretly wish this man is NOT on my flight. I hear a cacophony of sounds from behind me. A lady is playing a game and is unmindful of the gaming effects her iPad/ tablet  is making. Ugh. All I want to hear is white noise. It’s also noisy in the plane.

Then we have elevator noise. Who really wants to know what you ate last night or that you woke up late and the boss looked for you? People now talk above desirable levels in the elevator about nonsense. People need to be mindful of other people’s spaces and give them peace during the two-minute ride to the 33rd floor. Sadly, they do not.

What has become of propriety? Of quiet? Of peace?

When I called the call center of a credit card company, in the background, I could hear conversations of the other agents who are just chatting away. Everyone is already deaf. The chatter  enters our conversation but even my agent is not bothered—because they all are on headsets!

If I could confiscate every noisy smartphone or tablet on our flight, I would be rich. I just stood up to request a man whose kid was playing a game at full audio volume. He complied, not like the other German guy.

“I am the noise Nazi!,” I tell myself. Maybe because the world is changing I should actually get a noise cancelling headset and just go with the flow.

How have we come to this? The world is so noisy but we cannot even hear.

If we could measure in decibels the level people talk at I am sure we have increased and pumped up our volume from many years back, before earbuds and headsets.

It’s noise pollution and it needs to be addressed—or we may never hear the end of it.




Photo from Wikimedia Commons


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