Sound the alarm - the war on silence has intensified
If someone, somewhere is directing a war on silence, they are doing a very good job.
For instance, who decided that washing machines, when they have finished their business, have to issue an extended series of high-pitched tweets to inform you they have come to the end of their cycle, when the fact that they have stopped their rumble and spin is perfectly obvious to everyone but the deaf?
And why do cafe managers let their staff put on loud techno pop to cheer themselves up while they rush around serving customers who were born in the 1950s and 1960s?
There are so many other possible examples: finding yourself in a modern hotel where your room hovers over a huge air-conditioning control centre that hums and burps all night long is a common experience.
To date most of residential Ireland has been spared from noisy air-conditioning systems, though I’m sure someone, somewhere, is drafting a fiendish plan.
The cacophony of electronic bleeps and infuriating whines that have invaded the modern world now follow us as far as the grave.
Recently I was in Glasnevin Cemetery for a burial. The lines of old granite headstones, the high stone wall, the avenues lined by cedars, oaks, yew and beech make for a very impressive and particular location. If you have to have death and funerals, then it is as fitting a place for a burial as any.
Depending, that is, on how close you are to a small car park that is inside the walls.
Motorists when leaving drive up to a barrier which automatically lifts. Up at the gate that goes on to the road there is another automatic barrier. Each time the barriers lift a warning signal sounds. It is the kind of noise that would be appropriate if you wanted to evacuate the Pentagon. A strange addition to what is designed to be a place of repose.
New legislation governing noise pollution, and how those being discomfited by it can raise the matter with the authorities, forms part of the programme for government.
A consultation paper issued by the Department of the Environment in 2008 raised the issue of banning noisy alarms in both commercial and residential premises and having only monitored systems. Noisy alarms were the main issue cited in submissions received. However it doesn’t seem a ban will be included in the promised new law, which is unfortunate.
Even without new laws a better effort by society generally could help defend from attack the phenomenon of silence, a public good that is, after all, free.