I was reminded of this the other day when I watched a vendor of ours wear earplugs while vending.
I didn't talk to him about it. Vendor training isn't one of my official duties, and besides, as one of Real Change's worst all-time vendors, I personally support every vendor's right to sell badly.
Meanwhile, speaking of earplugs and rights, I had to think about all the times I have been homeless and worn earplugs out on the streets.
One day a year we may want to celebrate the right to make as much noise as we like, but the rest of the year most of us try to get away from noise when we can. Guess who can't?
Anybody who doesn't have a house to retreat to, that's who can't! And after a while it drives them crazy! You see, I do too have an excuse! The noise! The noise! Get it out of my head!
We all want to escape the noise pollution around us. For example, I'd like the right to be able to walk down 3rd Avenue around Pine Street without having to listen to Merle Haggart, if I don't want to. Hello, MacDonald's: I can wear a Walkman if I want to hear that sort of stuff. I shouldn't be subjected to it on the street. Play it inside, that's your business. Play it outside, that's my business.
But I digress. The MacDonald's situation is bad because it is deliberate noise pollution and the city ignores it. But for the homeless, unintentional noise pollution is much worse, just because there is so much of it and it all adds up.
If you are homeless with a couple of dollars to spend and you are moving from cafe to cafe looking for a place to rest and maybe hear one of your own thoughts, good luck at getting any pleasure. Muzak rules Seattle.
When most people complain about Muzak, the focus is on the quality. But to the homeless, it doesn't matter if it's Muzak or if it's KBCS, it's still sound, and if it is ubiquitous it is as inescapable and therefore as maddening either way.
It comes down to biology. I can close my eyes. I can't close my ears.
Well, maybe I can, a little. Federally approved over-the-counter ear plugs give just under 30 decibels of relief. And I can try to drown out their music with my own with the aid of earphones. What I can't stop I may be able to control, partly. But "partly" isn't enough when the problem goes on 24-7.
Don't even get me started on sirens. If you do, you'll be sorry.
If I got started on sirens, I would probably scream HEY EVERYBODY, SIRENS ARE TOO LOUD! CAN YOU STILL HEAR ANYTHING ANYONE IS SAYING? TURN THE DAMN SIRENS DOWN!
Oh, but you can't turn them down, you would say, because they have to alert both motorists and pedestrians.
BUT I would scream THEY ALREADY ARE MORE THAN LOUD ENOUGH TO ALERT PEDESTRIANS. THEY ARE IN FACT LOUD ENOUGH TO INJURE THE EARS OF PEDESTRIANS. THAT IS LOUD ENOUGH, OK?
Oh, yes, we have to alert motorists too. Why is that so difficult? That's so difficult because cars are deliberately built to be soundproof, by and for irresponsible idiots.
And instead of passing laws against irresponsible idiots buying and riding around in cars designed to be soundproof by irresponsible idiots, our government PREFERS TO JUST LET EMERGENCY VEHICLES RAISE THE VOLUME OF THEIR SIRENS INDEFINITELY, TO HELL WITH PEDESTRIANS.
THAT'S WHAT I WOULD SAY. So you don't want to get me started on sirens.