Saturday 21 September 2019

Why Is Everything so Loud?

Did you ever think that things are very loud nowadays? This might sound strange coming from someone who stood in front of two Fender Amplifiers with Black 47 for 25 years.

But while dining with a companion in my local recently each of us had to implore the other to “speak up” on various  occasions, such was the level of background noise.

There was no music playing, I might add, and the customers were far from three sheets to the wind.

It made me long for the days of the former bartender – a Serbian heavyweight boxer – who would periodically bellow, “Shut the ?!!!? up!”

Such was the menace in his voice the din would invariably subside to a low murmur. Japanese tourists, in particular, would look for the exits in alarm while we New Yorkers would exchange knowingly cool glances; whereupon the Serbian who had lasted two rounds with Larry Holmes would growl, “now, start again from that level.”

This is not just a male New Yorker disorder either. While at Buffalo Airport recently at the ungodly hour of 6am, four lovely lassies trundled by with their rolling cases stridently comparing the relative merits  – athletic and otherwise - of the Jets and Bills Quarterbacks.

And it’s not just me. Frank Bruni, former food critic of the NY Times, has proposed opening a chain of restaurants so quiet it be known as Geezers. He claims to be unable to hear himself think nowadays while dining out.

What’s going on? A drummer friend who lives above a well-known musical saloon tells me that the volume of customers has risen drastically over the last thirty years.

In fact every bar owner of my acquaintance laments that people are drinking far less but speaking much louder.

Subways, where once you kept your eyes and voice lowered, are now deluged with people disclosing private details that would have your grandad adjusting his hearing aid and blushing from the sheer booming salaciousness.

I blame my colleague, Howard Stern, for much of it although he himself appears to be a very mannerly and quiet-spoken gentleman the few times I’ve spotted him at SiriusXM.

For he has given license to every pip-squeak to unload their vitriol whether it be screaming from behind the wheels of their cars, or just favoring us with their unalloyed opinions in a volume that would make Ozzie Osbourne envious.

The difference, of course, is that Mr. Stern has a refined – if riotous – sense of humor and rarely raises his voice.

Now, liberals would tend to blame the national loudness on our current president, but allow me to disagree. Mr. Trump rarely raises his voice, because he knows full well that he’ll be haranguing the world for 20 hours a day and cannot afford an attack of laryngitis. 

Nor is the national inflated decibel level coming from the Left – Speaker Pelosi addresses us in very measured terms, while I often have to stick my ear closer to the television to pick up Senator Schumer’s Brooklyn whisper.

So who or what is to blame for this audio-explosion? I believe it comes from the ubiquitous earphones. 

Who hasn’t got a set of them nowadays? I bet your Grand-Aunt Bridie has a couple of pairs to match the current tint in her hair.

Think about it, more and more people are walking around in their own private universes. They can shut out the world and raise or lower the volume of those around them at will. Mostly raise, I would wager, for if you speak to anyone wearing earphones, they always reply in an oblivious bellow.

Is there any solution? I can’t think of one unless you bring back the random violence on New York streets in the 1970’s.

Back then one would not dream of wearing earphones while outdoors for fear of getting the head beat off you.

Perhaps it’s time to bring back my old Serbian bartender. We could appoint this man of few – but pointed – words to the newly created position of National Quiet Enforcer.

We better grant him a decent salary. He will have much work to do as we go slouching towards the loudest and most ferocious presidential election of our history.