The Best of Andy Rooney
There's a conspiracy against silence in the world. We seem to prefer a shout to a whisper.
Everywhere you go, people are making noise. They aren't making sounds, they're making noise. People who make noise for their own amusement intrude on the privacy of silence to which the rest of us are entitled.
Silence is the natural state. Any noise is a deviation from the norm. A lion doesn't roar for more than a few minutes out of 24 hours and although I don't know any lions personally, I'll bet there are days lions choose not to roar at all. How often do you hear thunder, the eruption of a volcano or the rumble of an earthquake? These natural sounds are special and only rarely do they break the earth's silence.
I don't understand why some people insist on filling the air with noise. They can't stand to be in a car without having the radio on. They can't stand being anywhere with nothing but the natural sounds of earth in their ears.
The most loathsome telephone practice instituted since Alexander Graham Bell asked Watson if he was there is the hold button that automatically feeds music into the waiting caller's ear. In many offices, when you call and are put on hold, the company apparently feels the need to amuse, entertain or distract you, so it feeds music into the line. If I have to wait for someone on the phone, I don't want the thought of what I wish to say crowded out of my head by some inane bit of music.
Many airlines pipe music into the passenger section when a plane lands. I'm trying to gather my wits and remember which overhead bin I put my coat in and the airline is playing soothing music. Soothing music irritates me more than music that isn't soothing. It sets my nerves on edge.
I can stand the sound of a neighbor mowing his lawn because it's not a noise being made merely for the sake of noise-making. The machine making the noise is performing a necessary function and I accept it.
It's the gratuitous noise that irritates me most. When a driver stops in front of a house in the neighborhood and blows the horn to attract the attention of someone inside, it's thoughtless and rude. We're all conditioned to the sound of a horn. Why should 10 people have to bother to look out the windows of 10 houses to find out the horn means nothing for them? As a matter of fact, I don't think there are more than 10 times in a whole year of driving when it's necessary for someone behind the wheel to blow the horn.
Most people don't mind the normal and necessary sounds. If I'm writing, I can ignore a vacuum cleaner, a lawn mower or a conversation in another room. But when a kid goes past the house with his car windows open and rock music blaring from his radio, I forget what I'm doing. It's those unnecessary noises, deliberately made, that call themselves to our attention and get on our nerves.
We have a day to celebrate almost everything else. I propose A Day of Silence.
(This classic Rooney column was originally published May 21, 1985.)
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Humor & Funny Stories - Gratuitous Noise is Irritating | Andy Rooney
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