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The Quiet Ones
November 18, 2012 6:40 PM   Subscribe

"In a 2006 interview David Foster Wallace said, “it seems significant that we don’t want things to be quiet, ever, anymore.” Stores and restaurants have their ubiquitous Muzak or satellite radio; bars have anywhere between 1 and 17 TVs blaring Fox and soccer; ... Even some libraries, ... now have music and special segregated areas designated for “quiet study,” which is what a library used to be. ... People are louder, too. They complain at length and in detail about their divorces ... a foot away from you in restaurants. ... People practice rap lyrics on the bus or the subway, barking doggerel along with their iPods .... Respecting shared public space is becoming ... quaintly archaic .... philosopher Aaron James posits that people with this personality type are so infuriating ... because they refuse to recognize the moral reality of those around them." [previously]
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear (121 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
My friend takes the quiet car on train rides, not because it's quiet, but because the interaction between the conductors and all of the non-quiet people is very entertaining.
posted by Celsius1414 at 6:59 PM on November 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


He makes an excellent point. It does seem like public space is getting ever louder and more exposed, so there is little to no escape from the gaze and voices of others. The point where it goes way over the line for me is when they play pop songs (at a loud volume) in public bathrooms. If ever there was a place meant for quiet exertion that would be it.
posted by Kevin Street at 7:00 PM on November 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


We blame the noisy individuals but what about the noisy commercial entities? If we have to be advertized to whenever possible it's just self defense to carry your own environment around with you to keep the outside out.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:04 PM on November 18, 2012 [18 favorites]


I struck by this use of the word "doggerel".

Also the animated image. In the electronic ... simulated ... newspaper ... thingy.
posted by ead at 7:04 PM on November 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Respecting shared public space is becoming ... quaintly archaic

It's still hip to me, damnit.
In part because I don't want to hear about how alla bitches and nyggas tryin'a keep ya down, motherfukka, or how little Susies gynocological procedure went.

Cellphones off; music and movies on headphones only.

How do they deal with tinny headphone leakage?

Yes, my lawns, and my ellipses - step off them.
posted by Mezentian at 7:04 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


All I know is, whenever I see a store with loud music blaring outside, it guarantees that I will never, ever set foot in that shop to buy anything. Ever.
posted by davejay at 7:05 PM on November 18, 2012 [21 favorites]


Celsius1414: "My friend takes the quiet car on train rides, not because it's quiet, but because the interaction between the conductors and all of the non-quiet people is very entertaining."

I wish MBCR conductors interacted with the non-quiet people. Instead, well... two guys once stepped outside to have a shouting match while the conductor watched, bemused, until the non-quiet fellow got back into the train as it was leaving without him.

The quiet car on the MBCR always the one closest to the locomotive, which is also the only one guaranteed to be on a raised platform accessible to wheelchairs. The same guy who accosted the non-quiet fellow in paragraph 1 once gave a woman in a wheelchair attitude for talking in the quiet car to which she replied that she had no choice but to sit in the quiet car and it is unacceptable to force those in wheelchairs to be quiet.

(I've also witnessed rage guy going off on a bus driver for taking a turn from a wrong lane.)
posted by mkb at 7:06 PM on November 18, 2012


I also don’t need to hear music blasting at me at the gas pump. Among the many places that’s not necessary that one seems extra stupid.
posted by bongo_x at 7:07 PM on November 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


I am not fan of constant talkers but I know that it only really bothered me when I was a suburbanite with expectations. City dwelling teaches you to find your own peace rather than requiring that all other provide it for you.
posted by srboisvert at 7:08 PM on November 18, 2012 [28 favorites]


I took a train to San Diego once. In LA, every car is the quiet car, because no one takes the train here.
posted by Huck500 at 7:10 PM on November 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


The obsessive text-highlighter in me discovered a minor treat at the end of the article. Select the text before that final image.

Add to that the (quite pretty and appropriate) animated gif at the head, and we've got two web-specific conceits. Tasteful and appropriate in my book.
posted by heresiarch at 7:12 PM on November 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


There might be a valid point or two in here, but the guy's descriptions of the sounds going on around him - "imbecilic din," "autonomic blather," "blatting gadgets" - make me think the problem is as much with him as with the world around him. I mean - sports bars are loud? People talk to each other in restaurants, sometimes not whispering? UGH BOORISH PEOPLE FLAPPING THEIR JAWS EVERYWHERE I GO.

You don't really have a right to the entire world being your blissfully silent dream, especially if you're living in a bustling city. Sorry.
posted by naju at 7:12 PM on November 18, 2012 [20 favorites]


One of the miracles of SFO's Terminal 2 is the lack of TVs. No more CNN Airport Network with endless, idiotic blather — just the natural noise of fellow human travelers. Bliss.
posted by wemayfreeze at 7:12 PM on November 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


And what's the deal with airline food?
posted by Brocktoon at 7:15 PM on November 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


The point where it goes way over the line for me is when they play pop songs (at a loud volume) in public bathrooms. If ever there was a place meant for quiet exertion that would be it.

Public bathrooms, actually, are one of the few places where I really, really do not want quiet. Better the pop song than.. well, whatever you'd end up hearing coming from the next stall without it.
posted by meese at 7:16 PM on November 18, 2012 [16 favorites]


And, man, are my arms tired!
posted by Nomyte at 7:16 PM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was at an IHOP with my wife and son when an elderly couple came in and sat in the booth next to ours. The gentleman put his smartphone on the table, the lady reached into her big bag and pulled out a pair of tiny, battery powered speakers and plugged them in. He made a selection, and we spent the rest of our meal listening to Asian pop through tinny little speakers. Actually, we didn't. We spent about 10 seconds listening to Asian pop through tinny little speakers, then we got on with our own conversation even though the music continued to play.
posted by mph at 7:17 PM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


You don't really have a right to the entire world being your blissfully silent dream, especially if you're living in a bustling city. Sorry.

I think you missed the point a smidge. It's not so much people being complete tossers (although there is a lot of that), or people in the Quiet Car, but the non-stop drone of the commercial world where, if I may misquote: everything is trying to be louder than everything else.
posted by Mezentian at 7:18 PM on November 18, 2012


My advice to the author is to move to the country, listen to the sounds of nature, unwind a bit and STFU.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:21 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


People talk to each other in restaurants, sometimes not whispering? UGH BOORISH PEOPLE FLAPPING THEIR JAWS EVERYWHERE I GO.

I don't agree at all. It's a problem that people don't seem to understand that in a restaurant, the appropriate volume is what which allows others at your table to hear you, without intruding on everyone else's meal. It's a symptom of a selfish, oblivious culture in which social etiquette is unimportant and people who ask others to be respectful of those around them are told to move to the country, listen to the sounds of nature, unwind a bit and STFU.
posted by Dasein at 7:24 PM on November 18, 2012 [48 favorites]


This is why Muzak© is a thing. It's a rendition of songs only your parents know the words to, but it's not the actual song. One or two melodic instruments with absolutely zero vocals is less intrusive than the typical four piece pop-band with snazzy vocals.

And yes, I'm now completely aware that I've just now outed myself as a follower and true believer of the one and only Muzak©, and how I'm actually advocating it's use in public. So please pray the audio they pipe into the restroom is loud enough to muffle my sobbing in the next stall.
posted by Blue_Villain at 7:26 PM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


t's a symptom of a selfish, oblivious culture in which social etiquette is unimportant

Yep. I don't understand why some people are so thoroughly incapable of just shutting the fuck up, whether on a phone call in the middle of an expensive restaurant meal or repeating some Lil Wayne garbage on the subway with their phone's speaker blaring its little 5-watt heart out. Are people actually this terrified of being alone with their thoughts?
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:28 PM on November 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


I've been as annoyed by loud people in public spaces as anyone has, but what an insufferable pile of self-congratulatory shit this article is. "We’re a tribe, we quiet ones, we readers and thinkers and letter writers, we daydreamers and gazers out of windows." Oh get the fuck over yourself. I swear to god, he's about to start quoting "we are the dreamers of the dreams..." and then wink to some romantic object of his desire. and the bit about "doggerel?" oh he's been waiting for an excuse to make a dig at rap, too. probably since 1985.

I don't ride amtrak often. When I have, I love the quiet car. I would be supremely annoyed if someone talked all the way along my trip in that car. But if I had written an article in the New York Times about my annoying train trip, I should think I'd no longer be writing article for the New York Times afterward. This is an article better fit for an Andy Rooney segment than having any place in the Times. He can quote DFW all he wants, but he really just wanted to complain about the annoying train passengers and those terrible terrible rappers on the subway. blech.
posted by shmegegge at 7:28 PM on November 18, 2012 [21 favorites]


Are people actually this terrified of being alone with their thoughts?

In fairness, fear of silence is a natural thing.
posted by Dasein at 7:29 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Living in the country doesn't even help, unless you do away with all your electronic devices too. It's so quiet at night you can hear the batteries of your phone charging - that is, if you can hear anything over the dull and constant throb of cpu fans and refrigerators and car engines way off in the distance - and once you notice this, you'll never un-notice it, spending your blissfully quiet country nights listening to high-bpm dance music to avoid the deafening sound of the country. And that's without even considering the inconsiderate sounds of animals doing whatever the fuck they do at night outside your bedroom window.
posted by Lorin at 7:31 PM on November 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


This is why Muzak© is a thing. It's a rendition of songs only your parents know the words to, but it's not the actual song.

I pity the fool who doesn't know the words to The Girl from Ipanema.

And, sadly, Muzak does renditions of popular songs.
I'm not going to swear this happened, but I was once in a shop and I realised I was quietly, basically, singing "a mulato, an albino, my libido, a mosquito" in tune to the Muzak.

You shall know horror.
posted by Mezentian at 7:33 PM on November 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm not American, but I am familiar.
Bars blare Fox News? Really?
posted by Pseudonumb at 7:33 PM on November 18, 2012


If you find yourself annoyed by the Stupid Shit Coming Out Of Peoples' Mouths Around You™, invest in a good set of earplugs. Not the cheap foam ones you roll up and stick in your ears. Those cut out too much sound and make it hard to hear the important sounds around you. Good earplugs designed for musicians turn the volume level down while preserving detail.

It is a hell of a lot easier to stuff earplugs in your ears than try and quiet the world down. Try it.

(and, no, you don't need fancy noise-cancelling headphones. Just good in-ear plugs or headphones. They feel weird at first, but you will get used to them after an hour or so)

On the other hand, sometimes it is interesting to listen to the soundscape around you. Give it a try sometime.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:34 PM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Please tell me more about this "quiet car." We don't have anything like that where I come from.

I feel like there are places where a level of quiet is expected (the movies, the library, an intimate restaurant) and places where people are going to be noisy (the subway, the mall, a loud restaurant). It's all about context.

If I were in the library and someone's headphones were bleeding tinny beats, I'd be upset. If I'm on the subway or out on the street, I'm in the common and have to expect a certain amount of noise pollution. Sure there are times where I'm out in public and wish I wasn't having to listen to someone else's conversation or music, but in those cases I'm wishing I hadn't forgotten my own headphones, not that everyone around me would suddenly gain a Victorian sense of propriety.
posted by thecjm at 7:35 PM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Some of the people in this thread seem to be all Sounds and Silences.
posted by Mezentian at 7:35 PM on November 18, 2012


> Respecting shared public space is becoming as quaintly archaic as tipping your hat to a lady

Probably because the social convention of keeping a contained passive facade and dwelling in your own self-contained quiet bubble of contemplation IS as archaic as tipping a hat, assuming that quietude ever actually existed outside of a London gentleman's club.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:36 PM on November 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


In fairness, fear of silence is a natural thing.

True, but find me any public place in an urban area with less than 60db of noise. The difference, IMO, is that the noise of trains or generators or whatever is one we accept by being in a particular area; some spittle-spraying douchebag going on and on at max volume is an act of aggression. It's a "Fuck you, this public space belongs to me now" kind of move.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:38 PM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


The point where it goes way over the line for me is when they play pop songs (at a loud volume) in public bathrooms.

They play what kind of-- ohh, pop songs.

/relievappointed
posted by No-sword at 7:38 PM on November 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


In fairness, fear of silence is a natural thing.

True, but find me any public place in an urban area with less than 60db of noise.


Sorry, I was being sarcastic (no thoughts in idiot's brain = scary silence) - that didn't come across.

It's a "Fuck you, this public space belongs to me now" kind of move.

Yes, though I wonder how much of this is sort of thing actually has nothing to do with aggressiveness and is really just a product of total obliviousness to the fact that others are being disturbed.
posted by Dasein at 7:42 PM on November 18, 2012


Please tell me more about this "quiet car."

It's hard to tell if this was a serious request, nonetheless... in the US the national intercity passenger rail service, Amtrak, offers offers Quiet Cars on many of its trains. Many muncipal and regional passenger rail services have similar offerings.
posted by RichardP at 7:45 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


As bad or worse than noisy people is intrusive advertising. My bank has these little screens that have something akin to CNBC scrolling business news while you wait in the drive-in, and for a while, the Chevron down the street had these little screens by the gas pumps that would blare tinny ads at you the whole time you pumped gas. At least he bank screens are quiet, and I guess the Chevron got the message, because their screens finally went away a few months ago, but it still seems to proliferate in the public space at an alarming rate. Those moving, super-brite LED outdoor signs are my new enemy. There's two or three new ones up on my commute in the last year, and they're blinding. One broke for a week, and was ALL BULBS ON RED FULL BRIGHTNESS, which is hell on the eyes at twilight. I will never. Patronize. those establishments.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:47 PM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I also don’t need to hear music blasting at me at the gas pump. Among the many places that’s not necessary that one seems extra stupid.

I suppose Gas Station TV has become my favorite TV network by default, since it happens to be the one I watch most often. I think I'd pay an extra 1¢ a gallon just to shut the damn thing off.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 7:47 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone read the referenced book yet? Looks interesting.

Unlike the Times article. Which nevertheless may have done it's job by selling a book.
posted by ctmf at 7:48 PM on November 18, 2012


I don't leave the house, so this is all very abstract to me.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:48 PM on November 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think it was a serious reuqest. We have no such things as quiet cars here either.
They sound dreamy. It does appear they are more for distance travel than daily commuting though.
posted by Mezentian at 7:48 PM on November 18, 2012


It was a serious request. The quiet car is what I assumed it would be, but I no idea how wide-spread they were.
posted by thecjm at 7:50 PM on November 18, 2012


Juvenal, Satire 3:
Most sick people here in Rome perish for want of sleep, the illness itself having been produced by food lying undigested on a fevered stomach. For what sleep is possible in a lodging? Who but the wealthy get sleep in Rome? There lies the root of the disorder. The crossing of wagons in the narrow winding streets, the slanging of drovers when brought to a stand, would make sleep impossible for a Drusus--or a sea-calf.
Yeah. Noise in cities is a wholly new phenomenon that started just in the last couple of decades.
posted by yoink at 7:52 PM on November 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's worth remembering that Sony created the Walkman in order to give people more privacy on crowded trains.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:57 PM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


It seems like all the cars on trains in Japan are quiet cars, usually. But on the occasion I have seen some loud Americans get on, the rest of the riders are also too polite to tell them to STFU. Everyone just suffers and shoots "ah, what the fuck" looks at each other.

It's kind of a tricky problem. That kind of person who is oblivious in the first place also (IME) tends to be the kind of person who doesn't really have strong feelings one way or the other... UNTIL you challenge them. THEN, it's fuck you, I'll be as loud as I want. Can't just apologize and turn it down.

But if you don't say anything, they'll never realize, eh?
posted by ctmf at 7:57 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have a number of friends/acquaintances who have ruined their hearing by running loud machinery, and consequently no longer really have an Indoor Voice. Going anywhere with them is always an adventure, because the comments they think are sotto voice, For Your Ears Only, are actually spoken at a level that the whole place can hear. Mostly that's ok, but once in a while one of them manages to drop a serious conversational bomb at full volume.

In terms of sheer noise, from what I've read Cairo might be about the worst. It's a couple of years old, but here's a Times article that reports:

After five years of study, scientists concluded that the average noise in Cairo from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. is 85 decibels, a bit louder than a freight train only 15 feet away... But that 85 decibels, while “clearly unacceptable,” is only the average across the day and across the city. At other locations, it is far worse, he said. In Tahrir Square, or Ramsis Square, or the road leading to the pyramids, the noise often reaches 95 decibels, he said, which is only slightly quieter than standing next to a jackhammer.
posted by Forktine at 7:59 PM on November 18, 2012


A few of us have pointed out how Victorian this whole idea is of going out in public only to sit still for hours silent, respectful and if you really want to go all out, in uncomfortable clothes. DFW was, despite his shaggy looks, quite the Yankee intellectual blue blood, and this whole idea of propriety, and chattering in disgust about those who don't fit your own standards of social mores and good manners (but always after the fact and never to their face), fits that sort of background to a T. So does being NYT opinion writer who takes the train in to work from upstate.
posted by thecjm at 8:02 PM on November 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


I think it's a little ahistorical. Based on my reading, I'd guess that quietness as a middle-class social value had its heyday along with everything else middle-class, from the mid-1940s to the mid 1970s. Life in a 19th century city was certainly not quiet, nor was life in a 1920s or 30s settled area. Trains, streetcars, street vendors, general hubbub seems to have been the norm. There is an entire genre of cartoon that emerges as soon as there's cheap pulp paper to print periodicals on which consists of the overheard comment. Restaurants seem to have been cavernous and chatty places. The idea of something like a library was a quiet retreat, but for most of the 19th century libraries were also private gentlemen's clubs, not the free public libraries we know today.

I'm a fan of places where there's publicly stated intentional quiet. THe quiet car on our train mostly works well, except when someone doesn't know it's the quiet car and talks loudly on their phone without noticing they're the only person talking. Libraries with quiet study areas, inns with quiet hours from 10 to 7. Beyond a setting like that, though, I'm not sure we've ever really had a public expectation of quiet.
posted by Miko at 8:03 PM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


here's a little story that somehow sums up our times for me

a couple of years ago, i was walking through the woods, when i spotted a doe with a couple of yearlings, about 200 feet from me - near me was a man, who was obsessed with a conversation he was having on a cell phone

it didn't bug me, but i noticed something interesting - as i slowly walked down the path, looking at the deer, the doe paid close attention to everything i was doing and totally ignored the other man, who didn't even seem to notice that there were deer close to him

as far as the doe was concerned, he wasn't there - he wasn't paying attention, how could he be there?

but she knew i was - and got concerned enough to go forward with her yearlings following her and then doubling back behind some trees to get away from me

she never even looked at the other guy

the lesson? - if you're not where you're at, you're nowhere - and that's not just my judgment - even wild animals know this

and people wonder about climate change deniers and such - of course, they don't see all this happening around them

they're not HERE
posted by pyramid termite at 8:08 PM on November 18, 2012 [52 favorites]


Related: Pastabagel's Background Noise Theory comment.
posted by danb at 8:14 PM on November 18, 2012


I'm with you, Blue_Villain. If they have to play something, it should at least be instrumental and only vaguely recognizable. At least then the music fades into the background, somewhat like people talking in a foreign language on the bus.

In fact, given a choice, I'd rather sit with a bunch of people loudly speaking a language I didn't know than somebody having a low voiced conversation in English. Sometimes a background of incomprehensible but still regular noise is almost as good as silence.
posted by Kevin Street at 8:19 PM on November 18, 2012


Please let me know when DFW took public transport. Seems like more people are engrossed in thir own private space, via headphones/earbuds than ever before.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:27 PM on November 18, 2012


Please let me know when DFW took public transport.

DFW didn't write this piece.
posted by sweetkid at 8:33 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


BOORISH PEOPLE FLAPPING THEIR JAWS EVERYWHERE I GO.

Not everywhere, but somehow, no matter where I sit on the train a jaw flapper will emerge. I'll look around the whole damned train car and there isn't a single other person yakking away like they're on the Real Housewives of Idiotville except for the person across the aisle from me.

You don't really have a right to the entire world being your blissfully silent dream, especially if you're living in a bustling city.

Most commuter trains aren't in the city and they aren't like subways. The default is quiet -- loud people are the exception.
posted by stp123 at 8:34 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seems like more people are engrossed in thir own private space, via headphones/earbuds than ever before.

I certainly try to be, because I'm trying to block out the irritating blather of some tool bellowing into their phone about how drunk Shareen got last night, or the persistent irritant of some fool pumping doof doof through their leaky stock iphone headphones at unbelievable volumes.

Lawn. My. Off. Get.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:39 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is kind of interesting that noise is more or less acceptable in public (per its defenders in this thread), while gaze remains a powerful tool, to the point that staring at people in public is considered taboo and extremely provocative.
posted by Nomyte at 8:41 PM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Please let me know when DFW took public transport.

Presumably at some point before he died.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:42 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Okay, the author of this piece had his book release party at Burp Castle, a bar in NYC that is a quiet bar -- as in, you are shushed by the bartender if the talking in the bar gets above more than a quiet murmur -- only he neglected to inform the horde of people he invited to his party about this aspect of the bar. So it was a loud, angry shitshow with people yelling at the bartender for doing her job and having no respect for what is meant to be a quiet space. So.... yeah.
posted by whitneyarner at 8:43 PM on November 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


I find the silence common on public transport where I live in Canada to be deeply unsettling, and it would be better if people actually engaged in actual lively conversation, interaction, and communion with whoever they are traveling with.

The silence on the bus is more about being reserved, and unwilling to interact with others (there are probably good reasons for this), rather than some Puritan respect for quiet (although puritanical, close-minded ways of thought, such as the desire to avoid hearing others talk, is also a reason why so many people clam up on the bus).

A few years ago I did a business trip in Japan. On one day I traveled to Kobe, via Umeda Station in Osaka, by Hankyu train. It was quite lively - people were talking, and laughing on the train, quite stereotypical of sunny Kansai attitudes.

The next day I made a trip to Tokyo. Outside of rush hour, the trains were very quiet. I've never liked Tokyo.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:44 PM on November 18, 2012


A lot of this is cultural, though. When my wife joined me in Norway, we were taking the train somewhere and she leaned over and whispered to ask me if someone important had died or there'd been some other great tragedy because everyone was silent. That's just the way they were there. Likewise, the easiest way to pick out an American tourist was they were the ones that'd stumble on the bus or the tram AND SEEMED TO ENTIRELY SPEAK IN ALL CAPS WHY MARJORIE DID YOU KNOW THIS IS AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT COUNTRY when everybody else was deathly quiet. Likewise, it's the only place I've been where an open plan office wasn't a pain in the ass because everyone was quiet unless they really had something to say.

Scandinavia as a whole is pretty relaxing, public transitwise, I definitely suggest it if you crave the silence on the bus.

I've also lived places where I'd always have headphones trailing out of my ears when on public transit because anyone not off in their own little world was a flashing "Please talk to me, especially if you are a crazy person" sign.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:45 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wish Muni ran quite cars.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:53 PM on November 18, 2012


ugh, people talk to me despite headphones. They motion to me to remove them. It's often to ask me directions, which ALWAYS happens under the Brooklyn Bridge, and their question is always "Where is the Brooklyn Bridge?" The other common reason is "hey sexy baby" type stuff. Really? You asked me to take off my headphones for that?
posted by sweetkid at 8:55 PM on November 18, 2012


pyramid termite: the lesson? - if you're not where you're at, you're nowhere - and that's not just my judgment - even wild animals know this

An alternate explanation, trying to take into account the less nuanced predator/prey world that modern humans often forget, is that predators try to be quiet and unobtrusive and are thus to be feared and watched-out-for; whereas non-predators can be loud as they want because they're not trying to sneak up on you, and can therefore be safely discounted.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:59 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


For some reason I want that article to be written in all caps.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:17 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


pyramid termite: the lesson? - if you're not where you're at, you're nowhere - and that's not just my judgment - even wild animals know this

What Greg_Ace said. This is also how you approach horses. Talk normally and walk straight at them like you don’t give a damn (but don’t stare them down). Predators don’t do that. People often try to put them at ease by being very quiet and walking up slowly. This can have the opposite effect, like you’re hunting them.

There are a lot of deer around here. You can actually try this at the park. If you see a deer watching you just talk and pretend to do something else. They will often just go back to eating.
posted by bongo_x at 9:18 PM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Actually, this applies to people too.
posted by bongo_x at 9:19 PM on November 18, 2012


Actually, this applies to people too.

They have a somewhat different reaction when I try to feed them carrots or hay, however.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:22 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, I loved this article. 95% high horse about how much he loves quiet places and how much respect for them he has and how he's definitely a finer class of human being because of this preference of his, and then in the last 5% he reveals he's the kind of dirtbag who types loudly in the quiet car and won't f*cking leave when people ask him to. Class act!
posted by town of cats at 9:25 PM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Whenever someone on the train is using an iPhone or iPad and hasn't turned off the keyboard click setting, I want to lean over and tell them, politely of course, "You know, you can turn that off. Here, let me show you."

I may be just a little bit environmentally sensitive. As a public service, I link to it here.
posted by stp123 at 9:31 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I find the silence common on public transport where I live in Canada to be deeply unsettling, and it would be better if people actually engaged in actual lively conversation, interaction, and communion with whoever they are traveling with."

But bus passengers (or subway riders, etc) aren't a community. They're a bunch of strangers jammed together in an overheated, smelly cattle car by the economics of mass transit. Or at least, they are in my city. I wish ETS was more like your community's public transport, because that sounds pretty nice.

It is possible to have nice conversations with people on the bus - but in my experience that's much more likely if everyone there has something in common (sports fans, say, on the way to a game), or if it's a really long haul on a Greyhound.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:54 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sensitive to noise and prefer to be quiet when I commute. I have good hearing and speak softly (social conditioning); I frequently lean forward to make myself heard. I prefer to lean in close when I'm talking to someone in public and find public spaces sometimes a bit too noisy to carry on a conversation.

When in public alone, I typically wear in-ear headphones with music playing. (You would not be able to hear music unless we were in a quiet room together and I had the music on high volume.) My headphones are high-end enough that even low volumes of music all but eliminate environmental noise. I can hear my breathing when I wear them.

I am not a fan of televisions anywhere, including bars and airports, but I understand they are a part of the world and that I am one of the unusual ones, that my desire for quiet when out in the anonymous public wilderness is not the norm. I realize if I want quiet I can stay home. I understand people have a right to communicate how they will, and I highly value the concept of freedom of expression, even if that expression inconveniences or upsets me.

The entitled attitudes and intellectualist contempt expressed (in some of the comments above) for people who evince their lamentable manners, low-brow inclinations, and proletarian barbarism (I will only parenthetically mention the non-Anglo names provided as examples are most certainly intellectualist indicators of non-Anglo ethnic and cultural origins which presumably is more than random detail to increase verisimilitude) disgust me.

Wanting quiet is one thing; presuming those unlike yourselves are somehow afraid or incapable of being quiet is pure narcissistic projection.

It's too easy for people like us to understand that we are quiet not because we are afraid to be social and animated but because we choose to be quiet. Other people choose otherwise. Imagine that.

If you want to avoid commuters blathering into their cell phones on public transportation, take private transportation. Or maybe you really would like to stay home and troll the Internet so your self-aggrandizing priggish self-assessment can get the exposure it needs to prove how truly deeply contemplative you really are?

And finally, the whole hero worship of DFW? I love _Infinite Jest_. Wallace was an amazing writer, but he was in existential agony and I'm guessing many of his attitudes (voluntary or not) towards real flesh-and-blood people were symptoms not of genius but of a deep depression.

tl;dr: Get on the train and suck it because you're too damn self-absorbed and craven to ask someone to be quiet lest they tell you where you can shove your intellectualist narcissism.
posted by mistersquid at 10:10 PM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


The east coast philosophy of generalized annoyance writ large. If you hate noise so much, move away from other people. Just because your interior monologue is more refined than others' exterior dialogues doesn't make it into a school of philosophy.
posted by anewnadir at 10:16 PM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


It is possible to have nice conversations with people on the bus - but in my experience that's much more likely if everyone there has something in common (sports fans, say, on the way to a game), or if it's a really long haul on a Greyhound.

I was really thinking of people you are traveling with, and my assumption here is that any conversation is "bad" on the bus.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:21 PM on November 18, 2012


Well, most of the time it is bad, because the trip itself is extremely unpleasant and I just want to get it over with. But in certain circumstances commuting can feel slightly less hellish, and in those circumstances it's easier to relax and enjoy a conversation.


It seems like there's two camps here, and both feel like the other is infringing upon their basic rights. But the irony is that no one who thinks about the subject this deeply is likely to be rude in public. The people who are truly rude and problematic are those who don't realize or care how their actions effect others. The kind of people who glide through life in a bubble of unknowing self importance, that probably wouldn't even read the editorial in the FPP.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:23 PM on November 18, 2012


I met a girl, talked to her for a while, she seemed nice and she recommended Infinite Jest. I bought it, started to read it, hated it. Met the girl again at another party, and by the end of the night she was a drunken, hostile idiot, and I thought, well, that explains my reaction to Infinite Jest.

As for the noise: the only thing I worry about in all this (other than loud stores as noted earlier in the thread) is that attitudes like "buy a walkman" or "move to the country" don't really hold up, inasmuch as "the country" isn't where the jobs are, and buying electronic devices that isolate you from your environment don't really give you much affection for that environment, so the end result (not by itself, but from that attitude as a solution generally speaking) amounts to those who can afford it getting out of dodge (aka suburbia) and those who cannot not really caring about the city they're stuck in. Which seems a shame.

Oh, and I once lived in a run-down building (which is now completely revamped twenty years later and if only those wealthy folks inside knew what a horrible place it was before, my goodness) and was the only person in the building (as far as I knew) who spoke English as their primary language, and it was wonderful waking up late and well-rested on Sunday mornings to the sounds of happy children playing outside my window, because all the yelling was in Spanish and so my brain just seemed to reject it as a disturbance, given nothing to hold on to and be distracted by. Being city-raised, I can similarly sleep through lots and lots of loud noises. But give me a car stereo blaring a rhythm, or a single voice speaking English, and all bets are off -- too much for the mind to grab on to.
posted by davejay at 10:24 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: a shockingly hostile mob of professors, old ladies and four-eyes who look ready to take it outside.
posted by moons in june at 10:25 PM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


This reminded me how happy I am that the Nextel walkie-talkie service has largely gone the way of the dinosaur outside of construction sites. It's bad enough to have to hear one side of intensely graphic and private conversations, I don't miss hearing both sides.

That said, as others have noted: If you live in a populated area, you need to get over base-level human noise for your own well-being, or move to an isolated place. It's not even because you're wrong, necessarily, but it's never going to change and will probably only continue to get worse. Yes, some people are wildly inappropriate with the sonic sharing they do in public. In general though, it's just a part of being in close proximity to lots of other people, and you're never going to win that battle.

Unless it gets completely ridiculous, personally I actually like and am comforted by the sounds of people around me. What really creeps me out is silence. YMMV.
posted by rollbiz at 10:29 PM on November 18, 2012


The most awkward experience I ever had on the bus was unknowingly sitting down in the sole empty seat amidst a group of people who were communicating in sign language. Now that silence was terrifying! Because they immediately started making very forceful and rapid gestures, no doubt commenting on the asshole that just plopped himself in the middle of their conversation. Should I get up and stand, or would that be even more rude after sitting down in the first place? It was a long trip.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:57 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


"practice rap lyrics??" "barking doggerel??" The racial overtones here are just barely concealed under the big words and facile David Foster Wallace epigram. Not sure why this is getting a better reception than the similar "kids today" blather about irony two posts up. It certainly doesn't deserve it.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:01 PM on November 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Because historically bars were very quiet places.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:02 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: a shockingly hostile mob of professors, old ladies and four-eyes who look ready to take it outside.
Please, someone, make this movie.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:22 PM on November 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


It seems like all the cars on trains in Japan are quiet cars, usually.

I wish that were true, but I have the bad luck to ride the train at the same time students take the train to and from school. Worse, most students on the train I take at the time I take it are all going to the same school, so there's an unseemly (for Japan) amount of yelling, horseplay, and generally assy behavior. In a sign that I've been here too long, I've actually complained to the teacher they have stationed by their bus in the morning about some of the more asinine shit.

The headphones thing... I never, never leave my headphones at home. I'm singularly lousy at not hearing things. All kinds of stuff catches my ear, and it becomes pretty uncomfortable after a while. Having music to block it out has become a necessity for me, as sad as that is.

Before, when I didn't speak Japanese at all, the background conversations were just noise that I could tune out. If I heard English though, I'd zoom in on it, so to speak. I couldn't block it out. Going home, or on vacation surrounded by English speakers got to be kind of overwhelming, and something I had trouble blocking out. It's bad enough listening to someone at the next table talk about Aunt Sylvia's surgery, and the pus, but it was English! I couldn't not listen, since it was, for me, rare to hear.

Now that my Japanese has gotten better, being back in the States isn't so overwhelming (it still takes me a day or two to acclimate), but now I can understand bits and pieces of the conversations going on around me, and I start to listen. Hence, the headphones.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:35 PM on November 18, 2012


Kevin Street, have you considered that it might be arrogant to assume that their "forceful and rapid" gestures had anything at all to do with you? How could you know how forcefully they were conversing before you entered the bus and sat down? They could have already been in the middle of a spirited conversation before you got on, and you only noticed their gestures after taking a seat amongst them. Unless you were somehow blocking line of sight between the signers (or, I don't know, move within a field of your own fetid miasma of body odor or something), I fail to see how you would get judged for sitting in an empty seat on a public bus. Sometimes an empty seat is just an empty seat.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:41 PM on November 18, 2012


I think it's kind of the opposite of arrogant to feel bad about offending people (even if they weren't really offended), but sure, they could of been talking about anything. But then again, it was pretty cramped in there, so I probably was blocking some of the sight lines.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:54 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine has his TV on at all times. He doesn't watch it much, most of the time he's even got a headset on while playing Diablo 3, but the TV is still there, flickering and yammering with no one paying attention to it.
posted by ymgve at 3:40 AM on November 19, 2012


but what an insufferable pile of self-congratulatory shit this article is.

Hah, you'll want to avoid the Hacker News discussion on it, then, where the brains trust are busy extolling how much more special they are because they like quiet, and, I mean, after all, they have trains of thought, unlike those common people who just make noise.

And don't get them started on young women, those noisy airheads.
posted by fightorflight at 4:13 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I and like 20 of my friends have fucking said that. The DFW name-drop is grating and unnecessary--it's not like it's a brilliant insight, no matter how much chew-spit dribbled from the moth from whence it oozed.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:46 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The noise of city is expected and predictable--traffic, horns, exhaust, construction, crowded restaurants at lunch , the din of humanity moving through common space--however--the noise of an individual in a small, shared and common space is entirely another matter--dinner in a restaurant, a train (short haul buses/trains excluded), a coffee shop, a waiting room etc. Those who would assert that 'just get over it and STFU" in these small, common, and shared spaces reflect a remarkable lack of civility and common courtesy. If you can't stand the background noise of a city, a side walk a busy sports bar then go someplace else or get earphones--if you are in a movie, theater, train, elevator, office, coffee shop or restaurant the "noise maker "needs to either muffle it or go somewhere else. Period. There are very very few good reasons to ever assault or inflict yourself on some one else. it is not OK to sneeze on some one and it is not OK to play unwelcome music. Space and situation does make a difference. BTW--this is not Puritan clap trap--the respect for common space is a multicultural phenomena.
posted by rmhsinc at 5:17 AM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Related: Pastabagel's Background Noise Theory comment.
Also known as the Pastabagel Could Be A Right Fucking Snob Sometimes But Gets A Pass Because Of The Sweat Licking Mozambique Thing theory of Pastabagel
posted by fullerine at 5:23 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Please tell me more about this "quiet car.""

Chicago's Metra system used to have a "bar car" on some lines until quite recently, which effectively rendered all the other cars "quiet cars" on the evening commute, because all the loud, gregarious people went to the bar car -- not necessarily to drink, but that's where everyone was social and noisy. All the other cars were full of tired, quiet people whose conversations didn't rise above the ambient train-noise level. (And really I think that's why people so many people hate noise on transit during commutes -- people are TIRED during commutes.)

"A friend of mine has his TV on at all times. He doesn't watch it much, most of the time he's even got a headset on while playing Diablo 3, but the TV is still there, flickering and yammering with no one paying attention to it."

I do that (well, not THAT, but something like that) because I have tinnitus in one ear, and once I start hearing the tinnitus, it's overwhelmingly annoying and I can't focus on anything else, so I'll put the radio or the TV on for a little background noise so the tinnitus isn't as noisy. (If I were playing a game with headphones in, I wouldn't have the tinnitus problem.)

I do think the more interesting point is the incredibly quantity of unnecessary commercial advertising noise we're subjected to all the time, and the strange ideas people have developed about noise in public spaces (like, if you talk to someone who works in your city's code-enforcement division, they get CRAZY quantities of complaints about children making noise at playgrounds) which I think speaks to the impoverishment of our public spaces in general. (But transit's a liminal space, not really a public one.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:33 AM on November 19, 2012


Metafilter: what an insufferable pile of self-congratulatory shit
posted by Dasein at 6:57 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I always use my inside voice on public transport.
I don't get why other people have an issue with that concept.
posted by Mezentian at 7:05 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"practice rap lyrics??" "barking doggerel??" The racial overtones here are just barely concealed under the big words and facile David Foster Wallace epigram.

I missed that. Huh.

This is making me kind of regret the date I had with the guy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:21 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the many reasons to want to avoid public transportation. Not to mention public spaces in general.

Davy Crockett (1786 – 1836) "When you can see the smoke from your nearest neighbor's chimney it's time to move further west."
posted by jfuller at 7:27 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I find the silence common on public transport where I live in Canada to be deeply unsettling, and it would be better if people actually engaged in actual lively conversation, interaction, and communion with whoever they are traveling with.

You must live in a different Canada than I do, then: I was on two trains yesterday for a combined total of about six hours. One was a commuter train on its way to Toronto for the Santa Claus Parade and was filled with shrieking, wailing toddlers and their benignly inattentive parents; the second took me to Ottawa, on which trip I was placed in the bro car.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:40 AM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


lite bright
light seems so bright.

In Flint we have hanging pant laws, what would lil' davie say about that.
posted by clavdivs at 7:53 AM on November 19, 2012


I have at all times on my person and ready to be used a minimum of 6 foam earplugs, and often more. If you need quiet, I can hook you up.

Relying on other people to preserve one's own sanity and peace is basically like asking rain not to be wet.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:56 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I should also like to point you to Gordon Hempton. This is the guy who has made a life mission out of making sound recordings of the natural world.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:59 AM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


"practice rap lyrics??" "barking doggerel??" The racial overtones here are just barely concealed under the big words and facile David Foster Wallace epigram.

That provoked a bit of a double-take in me too. But on the other hand, despite only using a commuter train a handful of times in my life, I too have been subjected to someone who was freestyling poorly over a track played on their iPhone and apparently only knew four words that rhymed with 'train'. If that wasn't doggerel I'm not sure what would qualify, and if I encountered it in my limited experiences, I wouldn't be surprised if it's a fairly common annoyance for frequent riders. And fussy bigots like Kreider and myself.

One of the big factors considered when we bought our house was my being able to walk to work and avoid the stupid bus. But even then, I'd have to walk by a group of people who were either into Jesus or marketing or marketing Jesus and would have cigarette breaks/team building exercises on the sidewalk so you'd hear their stupid cheers echoing up and down the street. Fortunately, I soon found a beautiful and quiet alternative route along a riverwalk - it adds another ten minutes to the commute, but it's worth it.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:03 AM on November 19, 2012


In Flint we have hanging pant laws, what would lil' davie say about that.

Lil' Davie didn't write piece. Tiny Tim did. Tiny Tim was just quoting Lil' Davie to try to look cool.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:24 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


You don't really have a right to the entire world being your blissfully silent dream, especially if you're living in a bustling city. Sorry.

One train car out of ten or so is hardly the entire world.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:20 AM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Davy Crockett (1786 – 1836) "When you can see the smoke from your nearest neighbor's chimney it's time to move further west."

"There goes the neighborhood."
Anonymous Lakota
posted by jquinby at 9:56 AM on November 19, 2012 [7 favorites]



And finally, the whole hero worship of DFW? I love _Infinite Jest_. Wallace was an amazing writer, but he was in existential agony and I'm guessing many of his attitudes (voluntary or not) towards real flesh-and-blood people were symptoms not of genius but of a deep depression.

Not to add to the DFW derail (and the confusion about who actually wrote the linked piece, which was not DFW), I agree that there is grumpiness about modern culture and its people present in a lot of his work but I disagree that depression = misanthropy or not liking people or life altogether. That's one of the classic misunderstandings about depression -- people are always saying, "I could never have depression, I just love life too much," which to me is like saying, "I could never have heart disease, I just love life too much."

His Kenyon College speech This is Water covers this conflict between being annoyed at the pettiness of everyday life while appreciating that you need to rise above it in some way to be happy:

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the "rat race" - the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.


I think DFW was trapped in an endless struggle with depression and wanting desperately to be happy and part of a world that I think he deeply loved.
posted by sweetkid at 9:59 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank you, thank you, thank you. What is UP with people who always have to be making noise with their mouths?!
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:32 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the miracles of SFO's Terminal 2 is the lack of TVs. No more CNN Airport Network with endless, idiotic blather — just the natural noise of fellow human travelers. Bliss.

Oh, man, you just gave me a flashback to January 2008. We were trying to go visit family in Montana when an incoming ice/snow storm hit the airport. Delta cancelled 70 flights and we were stuck at the airport overnight for fear of not being able to go home and get back to the airport in time for our rescheduled flight.

We had to listen to the cacophony of CNN Airport Network in the seating areas, or muzak in the walkway areas, punctuated by the beeping of indoor electric carts driving back and forth. When our connecting flight landed in SLC the next day, we were greatly pleased that the terminal had none of these things.
posted by Fleebnork at 10:51 AM on November 19, 2012


Chicago's Metra system used to have a "bar car" on some lines until quite recently, which effectively rendered all the other cars "quiet cars" on the evening commute, because all the loud, gregarious people went to the bar car...

Ah, yeah, I forgot about that. A great example of a carrot being more useful than a stick.
posted by davejay at 11:19 AM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thank you, thank you, thank you. What is UP with people who always have to be making noise with their mouths?!

People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order so they'll have good voice boxes in case there's ever anything really meaningful to say.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:22 AM on November 19, 2012


As a public librarian I have learned that cell phones and libraries go together like peanut butter and tiny shards of glass.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:16 PM on November 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would have paid the actual earth to have a quiet car when I used to take three trains and a bus one way to get to work. Interacting with people all day is draining and all I wanted was to listen to my ipod in peace.

I can't understand how it's asking too much for people to be quiet in the quiet car. Loud people already have the entire rest of the world to be noisy in, we can't have this one thing?
posted by Space Kitty at 1:26 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ctrl-F Metro, no hits? For reals? DC mefites, don't people still not talk on Metro trains?
posted by clavicle at 1:50 PM on November 19, 2012


I sincerely appreciate people who, by maintaining a silence, respect other people's wish to be able to concentrate on whatever happens to be on their minds, particularly in areas where the public in general has been accustomed to expect that of each other. There's nothing in even a big city that inherently makes this unfeasible, if people there are brought up to a) be aware of others' preference for peace (if that indeed is what most prefer) and to b) respect others' preferences.

This is not some abstract moralism that's designed for Enlightened Mefites to ridicule. In areas where people have this sort of agreement, people keep silence because this quiet mental space is actually valuable to them, or at least because it's valuable to many of those around them.

It's very easy for just a tiny minority to break this thing that everyone else holds valuable, but what on earth is with this desire to cheer them on?
posted by Anything at 4:18 PM on November 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I just came here to say that I HATE sports bars and pubs. All those damn screens, every one playing something different, people trying to out-talk the stupid TVs, and there's always one jerk that's gotta be misogynist, raciest, or just an ass. And I don't much like beer, either.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:24 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Who's the raciest? I'd like to meet this extremely racy person and perhaps share some of the beer you're not drinking.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:31 PM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like sports bars, sports, beer, tvs, and shouting at tvs and can be very racy. Maybe not the raciEST.
posted by sweetkid at 7:43 PM on November 19, 2012


I'm the raciest one--hate that NASCAR stuff.

And this kids, is why we have an edit feature!
posted by BlueHorse at 8:23 PM on November 19, 2012


I know but it ruins the fun sometimes.
posted by sweetkid at 8:26 PM on November 19, 2012


sweetkid: beers & shouting next time I'm in Brooklyn.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:31 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


indeed!
posted by sweetkid at 8:33 PM on November 19, 2012


I realize I'm generalizing but I cannot help but think my native USA is a loud country by temperament. It's always about excitement, conflict, and chaos. I remember being in France as an exchange student in high school and finding this game show called "Des Chiffres et Des Lettres" that was some math/scrabble concept or something, and in the audience, unlike the average American game show with audience shouting, the audience actually was really quiet, whispering answers in each other's ears. It was like being on another planet. In Germany I read that they actually have legally enforced "Quiet Hours" even during the day. Somebody mowing their lawn on a Sunday would be likely pilloried in some places. We could never have that here. Where I grew up you could hear leaf blowers at 9:00 at night.

I once heard Bill O'Reilly describe his antipathy to the old MacNeil/Lehrer show, and I got the sense as he spoke it wasn't just the the idea of liberal politics being accorded too much value on a PBS, but that the slow rhythm of the whole thing was just too oppressive for him. Like he felt compelled to bust in and throw a hand grenade on the table or something. It made me think it's no wonder the measured tones of old school network news could never hope to have as much of a market share in this day and age.

Even finding a place to have a quiet drink where I live is a bit tough now -- though it wasn't twenty years ago. I don't insist on some old standards playing -- some modern lounge music would be great -- but it's like the appreciation of peace and quiet is not as much in the consciousness of the culture anymore.
posted by CarsonDyle at 10:22 PM on November 19, 2012


" In Germany I read that they actually have legally enforced "Quiet Hours" even during the day. Somebody mowing their lawn on a Sunday would be likely pilloried in some places. We could never have that here. Where I grew up you could hear leaf blowers at 9:00 at night."

Not only do we have noise ordinances here in the states, but we have daytime noise ordinances too sometimes! Someone in my neighborhood got a $1500 ticket for a first-time violation of the daytime noise ordinance -- which isn't a pillory, but is pretty steep. I live in a city, not a posh suburb.

There's a sort of intricate dance in my neighborhood of loud and quiet times, and what noisy behaviors are acceptable when, mediated by the fact that we have many shiftworkers and many schoolchildren in the neighborhood. Mornings are quiet but bustle with kids to school. It is QUIET from 9 to 3 on weekdays and people don't do noisy yardwork. People off-shift are sleeping. The kids come out at 3 and there is kid noise and garage-band noise until dinner -- until 9 on weekends. And then it's quiet. Weekends are noisier with yardwork, but not until after 10 a.m. and done before barbecuing.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:26 PM on November 19, 2012


Not everywhere, but somehow, no matter where I sit on the train a jaw flapper will emerge.

Be glad you're not Jasper Carrot.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:49 AM on November 20, 2012


Whenever someone on the train is using an iPhone or iPad and hasn't turned off the keyboard click setting, I want to lean over and tell them, politely of course, "You know, you can turn that off. Here, let me show you."

The one time I managed to stop somebody from going through all her mobile phone jingles was by leaning over and saying "excuse me, your headphones don't seem to be plugged in all the way, I don't know if you have noticed?"
posted by MartinWisse at 5:00 AM on November 20, 2012


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