Monday, February 1, 2010


There is an old and well-worn joke about New Yorkers and their need for noise as a prerequisite for sleep. It's not entirely false. I, myself, am creeped out by silence, ask any of the people who have ever lived with me and they will note that I do not watch television so much as listen to it; the only place my iPod ever really gets used is in the kitchen; and once upon a time I needed the soothing sound of television to lull me to sleep. The house in Greenwich is obviously less noisy than the apartment in Manhattan.

Noises that city dwellers are accustomed to include sirens, brakes, hooligans, gun shots, loud music, and the gentle hum of traffic. Add to that the sound of dripping faucets, the upstairs neighbor flushing, the hiss and clank of steam heat, and you start to understand the background cacophony that is city life. There is a limit, of course. I remember being shown an apartment that was directly across from the elevated subway line at Broadway and 125th and looking at the real estate agent with what I hoped was a look that conveyed that someone could pay ME to live there, but that I would not be paying SOMEONE ELSE for the privilege.

But now I live in a calm suburb, cloistered from the noise of people doing things. On the bright side, I do not have to find ways to block out my superintendent's infinite loop of the same six really crappy Spanish-language pop songs; on the less bright side, I'll admit, it's creepy. Fortunately (and anyone who has ever looked for suburban real estate will proceed to shudder in horror), our house is in the approach path for Westchester County Airport. Yes, I know, I'm a freak. Strangely, given the complaints I have heard about such locations, I don't hear the planes most of the time. I guess our house is far enough away that if any other noise is present, one doesn't notice (or this ONE doesn't notice), yet at night, especially in the winter when, thank god, the crickets are on hiatus (I hate the sound of crickets. HATE), that gentle hum of jet engines is calming.

Consider the alternatives: our house, as I guess all houses do, creaks - for no good reason; even when the heat is off, the sounds of the heat remain, and they're not the familiar hisses of apartment steam heat; the toilet will burble periodically - not because someone has used it, just because.

A couple of weeks ago, I had this conversation: "Babe, when I pulled into the garage this evening there was an armadillo with a rat's tail in our driveway. Is that normal?" "That's an opossum." Great, so now a giant rat is my neighbor. Now all outdoor noises are the rat. I go to bring trash out and I am in constant fear that the rat of unusual size will be waiting for me. Not that I long for our old neighbors, the mice who shat everywhere and chewed things, but really, a rat the size of an armadillo?

Don't even get me started on the honking of the non-migrational Canada geese which are, apparently, endangered meaning that taking potshots at them with the pellet gun is verboten (see also, running them over).

So I will take the sound of a jet gracefully descending in the night. It conjures thoughts of travel - always a good thing - and reminds me that even though I am surrounded by geese and massive rats (to say nothing of the presumed animals that live in the attic: bats, ferrets, hornets), there is something normal out there. Something built by man in his noisy period that burns kerosene and, one hopes, occasionally sucks a Canada goose into its turbine.


  1. We had those opossums/ROUSes at Amherst. Did you never see one? They are SO disturbing. Really not okay at all. You have my sympathy.

  2. You know I didn't leave the dorm except for smokes and that was only when I didn't want to order pizza expressly so the pizza guy could bring smokes (wasn't that magical, by the way?).
    Devoted partner was so laissez faire about our new, much larger rodent problem, so thank you for understanding.

  3. I was walking through the social dorms late at night (a frightening endeavor already) and saw one of those creepy pink eyed beasts. I totally freaked out.

    Pretty much up there with the time there was a bat in the 3rd floor bathroom in Drew house.

    I've avoided nature as much as possible ever since.