14 November 1994 |
Los Angeles Times
Take Back Our Quietude
It's the noise, stupid. Or it's the stupid noise. It's everywhere: sirens, helicopters, leaf blowers, car alarms, beeping emitted by vehicles as they back up, car radios that vibrate nearby buildings, boom boxes that require a crane to carry around, cars without mufflers, and, one of [the] most obnoxious, construction workers who connect their two-way radios to public address systems and broadcast their communications to the neighborhood. The resulting din is crowding out a number of more traditional human niceties, like thinking, hearing, peace and quiet, rest, relaxation.
Lawmakers have tried to instill some quiet. The California Legislature passed the Noise Control Act of 1973 because they believed it was their responsibility "to provide an environment for all Californians free from noise that jeopardizes their health and welfare."
The Los Angeles City Council also has seen fit, rhetorically, to address the problem, which it says can be "detrimental to the health and welfare of the citizenry." The Los Angeles Police Department maintains a Noise Enforcement Team that takes complaints, usually by voice-mail. I have not yet been able to get any action, however, about the "back beeping" of trucks working on a freeway construction project near my home.
There's a lot of silencing that could be done. For blaring two-way radios, how about requiring headsets that bother only those wearing them? For leaf blowers, require mufflers or, even more creatively, how about brooms and sweat? For car alarms, I'd like to advocate public destruction of any that keep people awake at night. Or even just limiting their screeching to one minute, down from the current five. And for back-beeping trucks, limit the audibility of their sounds to no more than 15 feet, give drivers an on/off switch, and prohibit their use near residential neighborhoods.
We've got to take back our contemplation space and make quietude available again to those who want it.