By Macon Bristol
I live in suburbia. When I graduated, I knew I definitely did not want to move to the city. I’m sensitive to noise pollution, and I did not relish the thought of having to live in a cramped apartment with ceaseless racket all around me.
You see, I honestly thought I might have a shot of finding a quiet place to live away from the city. I grew up in a suburban community where people mowed their lawns once a week (or not at all) and stopped after a reasonable hour so that they could eat dinner and spend time relaxing with their families. On the weekends, they took day trips or ran errands with their families. Sundays were especially quiet because people went to church in the morning and then spent the day relaxing before heading back to work and school.
This has since changed. Why spend time with your family when you can stay home and tinker with your lawn? For hours on end! Until everyone in the vicinity goes deaf from the whine of your machines!
I live on a street that you might expect to be “quiet.” Not a chance. People here usually rev their power tools up at around 9:30 a.m. but make up for this temporary thoughtfulness by ending around 9:30 p.m. Many of the lawn machines are 70 decibels or more. Unfortunately, it takes these people several hours to mow a lawn that is less than an acre. I have seen guys mow the same strip of lawn repeatedly for a good five minutes, despite the fact that they have already beaten it into submission. At the same time, they are polluting the atmosphere, both with chemicals and noise. At the same time, they are making it impossible for anyone in the vicinity to conduct a normal conversation, relax or take a nap (even with the windows closed).
People in suburbia have warped values. They seem to care very little about the welfare of their neighbors or their environment, but a great deal about how their landscape looks. This will sound sexist, but it appears to be mainly men who have this affliction. I occasionally see a women using a push mower. I have never seen a women use a leaf blower, weed whacker or a riding lawn mower. Many of my male neighbors’ idea of “quality time” seems to be to let their kids play in the yard as they cut the grass (always a wise idea).
The person in charge of the board of health is also male, as are the local police. I hate to stereotype, as I know there are male activists against noise pollution, but I have to wonder if gender has something to do with the cavalier reaction I got when I approached them for help. After all, if you personally like noise, why would you take the complaints of someone who doesn’t seriously?
My town has a noise policy that starts off by stating that noise is a health hazard and should be regulated for the good of the community. If you read further, you discover that the town can order construction at any hour as long as it is designated an “emergency.” If you are annoyed by your neighbor’s barking dog or radio, you can call the police. Otherwise, people can do anything they want at any hour of the day as long as their on their own property. When it comes to noise, that is.
At this point, I’m stymied. When are we going to start recognizing noise for the health hazard it is? We wouldn’t let homeowners dump harmful pesticides on their lawns between a certain hour and leave it at that. We fine for speed, even if the motorist is on a deserted street. Would it really be too hard for police to start fining people who violate noise regulations? It might not make them more respectful, but at least it would make them poorer. And maybe, just maybe, make things a bit quieter.