Tuesday, 20 July 2021

The Sound of Silence and the days of Answering Machines

 Remember last year in the thick of the pandemic when everyone was talking about how loud the birds were singing?


Guess what? They’re still at it. I was recently awakened before dawn by a finch kicking up a hullabaloo, while later that evening a clapper rail hoarsely serenaded the full moon.


This begs two questions: were we all speaking in hushed tones last year because Donald Trump was making enough noise for all of us? Or has the pandemic caused us to finally appreciate the sublime qualities of silence?


Whatever your politics, things do seem quieter of late.


I can’t say I miss Mr. Trump’s bracing presence but he did unwittingly cause me to alter my lifestyle. Soon after the 2016 presidential election, I de-pinged my iPhone.


This was not, I hasten to add, a political gesture, more an effort to lower the general volume.


This action did bring me some measure of peace, although I still occasionally miss my late night texts from a Nigerian prince informing me of an inheritance I had overlooked.


Some years back I even turned off my ring tone and have not suffered greatly from this loss. I mean, when was the last time you got good news by phone? 


My sons were aghast at my rationale. One was even heard to moan, “Supposing I needed you in an emergency?”


I thought about this for a couple of days before replying out of context, “I lived wild on the streets of the Lower East Side when I was your age and never even considered calling my father.”


Forgetting his earlier emergency plea, this particular son merely rolled his eyes, assuming I was having “an old dude” moment.


This exchange reminded me of a time when the humble answering machine was the highest tech device in most households; that being said, many people ignored its blinking light for we had yet to hear about thoughtful Nigerian princes.


Back then I only pressed the “listen” button when the humor was on me – there was even an occasion when a lady had already terminated our relationship for three days before I chanced upon her “dear John” message.


For you see, I’ve always enjoyed silence – a strange admission for a rock musician. Or perhaps I just don’t like total surprises. 


This is a common Wexford trait. There’s an odd diffidence in the air down in the sunny South East. 


“Manana,” “We’ll circle back to that,” and “Are you coddin’ me?” are phrases readily bandied about.


 Passion rarely raises its mangled head on our narrow streets until at least 6 pints have been consumed. 


Maybe that’s why I like President Biden – even though I know President Trump leaves him in the ha’penny seats when it comes to drama or excitement. In fact, I can almost sense the little wheels and springs ticking away inside Uncle Joe’s brain, as he laboriously comes to terms with a problem.


He’s not a man for sudden pronouncements which is why I got alarmed when he declared that US troops would be history in Afghanistan by this coming September 11th.


Now I’m all on for doing away with foreign wars, but to quote Yogi Berra, this seemed like déjà vu all over again.


After all we’d shamelessly walked away from wars in Vietnam and Iraq and left our interpreters, translators, and other civilian allies to the fond embraces of commies, cranks, and religious fanatics; and, God knows, the Taliban are not exactly fans of Elvis Costello’s “Peace, Love, and Understanding” ditty.


However, Sleepy Joe finally roused himself and put forth a plan to evacuate our endangered Afghan allies, thus minimizing another moral debacle and leaving one less thing to worry about in this oddly quiet summer.


It’s true, economists, capitalists, and the few surviving Mom & Pop proprietors are worried about the proletariat refusing to return to dead end jobs.


My guess is that all of these salary shirkers have de-pinged their smart phones and purchased antique answering machines.


They sit at home drinking cold beer and smirking at the blinking light as The Mets steadily advance towards the World Series, all the while luxuriating in Simon & Garfunkel’s soothing Sound of Silence.

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