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Reflections July 2014

The Old Gal

Soundtracks to Life

By Anne Ashley

Why? Where did all the quiet go? Why did all the quiet go? If personal viewing and listening is so advanced, why am I forced to suffer never-ending public noise?

I don’t recall that my youth was particularly lacking in audiovisual stimulation. If memory serves me well, when I wanted to add melodic sounds or popular programs to my daily routines I simply chose to listen to the radio or watch television.

Granted, in my day there were far fewer contraptions you could listen to music on and even fewer devices that allowed you portable television viewing. It might seem archaic now but in days of yore, if you wanted to watch a program, you actually had to park yourself in the one room that contained the television set along with all the other family members and watch what the adults decided was to be watched! Radio stations were a little more portable but typically listening was restricted to specific times of the day and from the confines of my bedroom so as not to disturb anyone not choosing to listen to my music! There was none of the extravagance or individualism that we currently enjoy today where a person can view or listen to entertainment on anything from a phone to a pair of sunglasses!

However, the revolution of multi-purpose, mini-gadgets and personal viewing and listening opportunities hasn’t exactly enriched our lives, has it? Parking lots, gas stations, shops, food halls, malls, waiting rooms, restaurants, cinemas, grocery store aisles and even public parks all bombard us with blaring music and vivid advertisement screens, lest we spend one minute in our own thoughts.

Why? Where did all the quiet go? Why did all the quiet go? If personal viewing and listening is so advanced, why am I forced to suffer never-ending public noise?

It was bad enough when modern clothing shops started playing music so loud that it sounded as though there was a raucous party somewhere in the distance! Far from enticing me to spend money on their clothes and accessories, the noise level guaranteed I went elsewhere – and I’m not just talking about young and trendy shops. Unfortunately even establishments meant for my generation have started to use annoyingly loud music as a distraction entertainment!

However, worse was to come when the noise assault spread to grocery stores. I don’t mind faint Muzak in the background while I load my cart with the week’s staples – for the most part I just ignore it. But it’s impossible to disregard music and infomercial displays so loud and intrusive that I actually welcome the occasional interruption of someone trying to get a staff member to clean up a spill on aisle whatever.

It seems the more technology allows for personal choice, the less we actually have! I don’t need a big-screen TV hovering over my head, advertising the establishment I’m already in! I don’t want to be barraged by some overly excited salesman about a specific product being sold in the store I already chose to shop in! I’m here! You got me at Jello! Is it asking too much that I be allowed to find the miracle product all on my own? I mean, if it’s all that great, I’ll find it, I promise!

Just lately as a way of combating the unavoidable noise supplied by the powers that be, I’ve taken to wearing headphones whenever I go out in public. I’m often asked what I’m listening to when folks see me walking around seemingly plugged into my very own private entertainment. I smile and say, “Nothing. I’m listening to absolutely nothing.”


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