by George Diaz

January 11, 2008

I’m a grouchy old man.

The generational seismic shift is obvious. I can hear it. I can feel it. I’m just making it official.

It’s that %$#@! noise coming from the super-sized car stereo of somebody driving next to me, or stopping at a light. Any chance of four-wheeled serenity is shattered by the THUMP, THUMP, THUMP of a booming bass line.

Not once has there been a song I would crank up in my personal jukebox. Never the old-school vibe of Springsteen or the Eagles. Not even the younger demographic pulse of Sugar Ray or Nickelback.

Sad reality: Urban hip-hop or Reggaeton is a young man’s game. The booming blitz has a distinctive line of demarcation between us and them.

But there is hope on the mean streets of Central Florida.

Grouchy old people have united for a common cause:

Silencio, por favor.

A group called Noise Free America wants to ratchet up the fines for loud car stereos. Representatives hope to meet later this month with state Sen. Carey Baker of Eustis, who heads the Senate Transportation Committee.

The proposals call for more than doubling the fines to $200 and making excessive loud music a moving violation — meaning points on a license.

Despite the ringing in my ears, my head says this is a dubious call.

At what point does Big Brother become so intrusive that we can’t sneeze in our car without getting pulled over? Already, there are bills floating in Tallahassee that would prohibit drivers under 18 from using cell phones.

And Baker, once the consummate obstructionist, finally gave a thumbs up to red-light camera technology earlier this week.

Both are worthwhile issues, particularly the red-light cameras. But should “Bad Taste in Music Played Loudly” be such an onerous offense?

There is one serious concern: Loud music most certainly will drown out an ambulance siren and other emergency vehicles coming your way, which is a major public safety issue. But let’s be honest: You could rack up a lot of mileage before that coincidental convergence happens.

Baker, bless his patience, said he will listen to anyone with a cause. Coming soon: The knock-knock to complain about the boom-boom.

His initial reaction isn’t surprising.

“You know it’s easy. I could go through the whole state statutes and double this fine, and double that and make an argument that it would help solve the problem,” Baker said. “But there is a point of diminishing returns. We’ve moved to the point where I’ve had state troopers and law-enforcement officers tell me they are writing fewer tickets because they feel sorry for folks because of the cost of the ticket.”

In a world of $200 fines and points on a license for loud music, an officer with a 17-year-old son could understandably be compassionate after pulling over a kid with a booming stereo.

Baker did the right thing by switching his position on red-light cameras this week, but it’s a stretch to expect him to embrace this call for quiet time on the roadways.

Somebody could die if a red-light runner zips by an intersection.

Somebody might be annoyed if a driver who likes loud music pulls up next to them at an intersection.

Perhaps the best counterpunch is for grumpy old men like me to roll with the changin’ times.

Time to crank up Kenny G at full blast and give those young punks a taste of their own bad medicine.