Guest Curmudgeon: "The Sounds of Spring"
It is always a treat when the brilliant Neil Ramsay pays us a visit to bestow upon us his curmudgeonly observations. As we enter the gentlest of the seasons, Mr. Ramsay has come by to help us mark the transition. TWC
The Sounds of Spring
by Neil Ramsay
I live in the suburbs, which many will tell you is the perfect harmony between the remoteness of country life and the comfort and convenience of the urban locales. Those who talk fondly of the idyllic suburban lifestyle will often speak of afternoons outside with drinks in hand, waving to neighbours over the fence as they rest upon their patios and decks enjoying the sunshine and relative seclusion of their grand quarter-acre estates. It evokes images of the classic American dream with white picket fences and Fido playing upon the lawn.
What they will not tell you is that it is all a complete lie. The images of suburban bliss are nothing short of a fabrication, leaving out what are, I feel, important details—details I believe should very much be in the proverbial brochure.
For instance, if I were to open my window right now in an effort to enjoy our warm spring day, I would be instantly assaulted with the sound of leaf blowers and lawnmowers. From roughly 6:00 a.m. to well after dusk, this sound will continue, unabated, from seemingly every corner of the neighbourhood. As soon as one lawnmower stops, another starts, only bested in volume by the incessant, high-pitched whining of leaf blowers. It is spring. Leaves fell in autumn. Why oh why, dear reader, are there leaf blowers? What are they blowing? Were there eight entire leaves on someone’s lawn today? Did the owner of said lawn look out upon it and decide that this brown, unsightly blight in a sea of homogenous green needed to be stamped out at all costs, such that an hour of leaf blowing was required? And why can’t we just decide that there are three times of day that are acceptable for mowing a lawn, and none of them involve the hours of 6 a.m. or linger into the darkness? Why must the unbroken drone of mowing be an incessant and continual background noise from rise until sleep? One might think that such a sound would, at some point, diminish the quality of life in the suburbs, and one would be quite correct. And yet, it is not the worst of the auditory abuse that occurs. For that, one need only listen for the sound of shrieking children.
But children, you exclaim! Surely there is no sound more angelic and wholesome than the bubbling laughter of a child enjoying the spring air! I assure you, at no point does the sound of laughter ever make itself present above the decibel level of lawn machinery. The sounds that do ring out are the blood curdling screams from small children who are, I am sure, in mortal peril and critically injured. From the sounds, that must be the case. And yet, it never seems to be. It seems that children make these sounds to declare everything from “I am having a wonderful time,” to “Look! There’s a puppy!” to “I want the ball that my sister just stole from me!” And one is never sure if one should be calling an ambulance to come help or simply ignoring the sounds as the normal, everyday sounds of playtime. It is a decision one must make dozens of times a day, as the suburbs are, apparently, the ideal place to raise children; so families move here, have small children, and then move elsewhere as soon as their children stop screaming bloody murder at all hours of the day or night.
Those unaccustomed to the suburbs might think that once darkness falls and it is well and truly time for sleep, the random sounds might fade, leaving only the bliss of crickets and the breeze through the trees. Yet once it is time for sleep, and the children have gone to bed, and Mister Johnson has stopped trying to mow his lawn in the dark, the noise does not cease. It is at this time, when ever-so-conscientious animal owners let their dogs out into their yards to bark and howl and madly exclaim at every opportunity, sometimes accompanied by more screaming children who were somehow allowed to wander into the yard at dark to carouse with the family beast. It is a never-ending cycle of aural abuse that only diminishes (ever so slightly) when one’s windows are closed and one’s curtains drawn to help muffle the sounds.
Every suburban neighbourhood has at least one house in which some wizened old woman or man scarcely emerges, only to cast glowering looks upon the local children while collecting mail. These hermits are, I would guess, simply trying to avoid the continual abuse of the ears that pervades without cessation. Every bright, lovely springtime I spend living in the suburbs, I understand their motivations a little more. One day, I shall awaken to discover that I, too, have become one of those recluses who hides from the springtime assault. But for now, I shall sit here peering out upon the beautiful spring day outside that I dare not open the windows to attempt to enjoy.