Saturday, November 6, 2010

Timbuktu or Bust

I am 44 years old, and sometimes I have to remind myself that I am "middle aged". The whole idea of being middle aged kinda bugs me, and I don't feel old, so I try to avoid thinking about it, but there are times when it's hard to keep pretending I'm in my 20s.

Like when I am constantly being irritated by the noise emitted by other humans.

Is it me? Am I just becoming a cranky old lady, or are people just noisier these days? Is there anywhere a person can go where they will not be assaulted by sound?

This being a childfree blog, it goes without saying that much of the noise I am assaulted with comes from families with children. They are everywhere, invading our space like aliens on attack in a bad science fiction movie. They are yelling. They are screaming. They are pushing and shoving. They are cackling and cooing - all at full volume and without regard to the sensitive ears (and desire for peace and quiet) of the people in their vicinity.

If I am to be objective, however, it's not only families with children who are disturbing the peace. I ride a train to work and every day I am on a quest to find a seat in a quiet area. When I enter the train, I strategically scan the aisle, looking at the passengers. I look for people who are talking to others and talking on cell phones and I sit someplace else. I try to sit myself next to sleeping passengers, to increase the odds I will have some peace and quiet, but inevitably my strategy fails because within a minute of settling into my seat, someone within earshot of me will start yammering on their phone full-blast, or break into a full-volume conversation with someone across the aisle with complete disregard for how they are annoying others.

Taking it all into consideration, families with children are the worst because they not only have no consideration for others around them, they seem to be under the impression that everyone finds them endearing. They whoop it up like they are the circus coming through town, and in the middle of the ruckus the parent smiles at me with a knowing look that says aren't my kids just the cutest!!!?? I just glare back at them and try to telepath a look that says no, you're all a bunch of annoying clowns - now get the f*ck out of my space and back to your circus tent", but they never seem to receive my message. An exasperated sigh doesn't work either. I've tried that. So I usually get up and move myself to another area but that only remedies the problem for a moment before another parade of noise makers invades my space.

It's the same story everywhere we go. Not long ago we went camping in the woods - the perfect place to commune quietly with nature and each other. Nope. Within 30 minutes of setting up our campsite, a truck filled with noisy kids (and equally noisy parents) pulled into the campsite next to us. Every morning and evening we not only had to endure the endless sounds of kids screaming and running around like Energizer bunnies on crack, we also had to endure the equally noisy father hollering across the entire campground, "RONNY - COME GET YOUR DINNER." "ANDREW - DO YOU WANT HOT CHOCOLATE!??" "Whaaaat?" "DO YOU WANT HOT CHOCOLATE!? I AM MAKING IT NOW." "COME ON, IT'S GETTING COLD!" Day and night, night and day, yelling and carrying on with not even the slightest consideration that perhaps some people came there to enjoy the beauty and quiet of nature.

While camping in Maryland this past summer, the circus in the site next to us was so out of hand with kids screaming full-volume non-stop, I finally flipped my lid and marched over to their site to confront them. I said to the father, "Would you mind asking them to keep it down a little? The noise is really out of hand" to which the clueless father shrugged his shoulders like a defeated dog and laughed, "Yeah, good luck. I've tried." This, after we observed him for a solid day and saw him do nothing - not even utter a single word to his kids as they carried on like out-of-control apes.

I know this will make me sound like the middle aged woman I am, but it scares me to consider what our society is turning into. Where have manners gone? Where has basic consideration gone? Where has awareness of other people gone? Nobody has manners, nobody cares about anyone but themselves, and everyone thinks they have the right to do whatever they want, as noisily as they want, at all hours of the day and night. Parents have no manners or consideration themselves, so they do not teach these values to their children. Life is a free-for-all where chaos and self-interest reign supreme.

Maybe it's time for me to hitch a ride to Timbuktu. Do you think I could find some peace and quiet there?


Stephanie said...

I've probably been middle-aged my entire life then because I've always hated this. We were at Wal-Mart last night, the worst place to go ever, and there were two little girls who were sooooo loud! And the mom just kept shopping without even attempting to tell them to quiet their singing and clapping down. Everywhere we went suddenly they were in the same aisle. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

If being annoyed by too much noise made by oblivious people makes you feel middle-aged... then I am a 21 year old man going through a mid-life crisis. ;)

But seriously, though, I am not a fan of cell phones (I don't own one, save for a emergency phone in the trunk of my car.) Partly because of the noise, but also because of the mental haze caused by them: I was going to my local coffee shop (my workplace) to see a woman calling out her drink order to the Barista, but not looking at the barista because she was looking directly at her "smartphone".

I think that is a very unsavory habit to have, it makes the person feel sub-human. *sigh* I guess the "smart" phone does not impart it's intelligence on the owner.

EY said...

No, you're not insane to want quiet. I saw a production of Wicked this week and sat in front of a few rows of teenagers. Their chaperones/sponsors/whatever all sat together to one side and grouped the kids together. The two young men behind me had happy feet and shuffled and kicked all night. Three out of the 4 in my group asked the kids behind us to be quiet. As we were leaving, I saw a school bus and will be emailing the district to let them know that bringing a group of kids to a production is only a good idea if A) they know how to behave (here's a hint: if they can't do it in class, they won't do it outside) B) you supervise them by having one adult per row and C) you require them to dress properly. By properly, I mean a bath that day (one kid SMELLED), no shorts, no ripped jeans, no tee shirts.

Adrian said...

I feel the exact same way, and I'm a teenager. I'm kind of HSP though, so that's probably why noise bothers me. It's one of my main reasons for being childfree; I just can't stand the constant commotion. Home needs to be a place of quiet, separate from the (figuratively and literally) noisy world. Kids ruin that safe place.

firefly said...

What kills me -- and particularly relevant to your camping story -- is the whole idea that kids have "nature deficit disorder." They stay indoors on computers and watching TV too much, so now the big push is to get them outside to "experience Nature."

The problem is they whoop, holler and scream so much when they're out there that Mother Nature hikes up her skirts and heads for the hills. And the worst noise usually comes from the parents having "fun" with the kids!

We had our house insulated this past spring, and it's seriously the best money we ever spent--with the thermal windows shut and locked, we can hardly hear child noise at all.

The Mad Housewife said...

If it makes you feel better, I'm noise sensitive and I'm 25! There's nothing that gets under my skin more than mothers letting their pack of wildebeasts (oh sorry, excuse me, special little snowflakes) run around wild.

I have one child, who is four and incredibly well behaved. because I actually PARENT and EXPECT good manners. Anyway, I had a pair of mothers (who maybe had eight kids between them, I honestly couldn't tell) come up to me the other day; the conversation turned to how well behaved my kid was and where where her brothers and sisters? They seemed shocked and appalled that she was my only child. (because apparently it's my sacred duty to pop out playmates for my kid) I told them I was reducing my carbon footprint *evil grin* Screw you ladies, I'll be over here having my coffee in peace while my only child QUIETLY scribbles with crayons.

Rachel said...

Being annoyed by these things does not make you a cranky old lady! I'm 24 and have these same exact thoughts. I feel like anyone with half a brain would...

Spectra said...

Well, I guess I haven't noticed the loudness of others in general, but I definitely get annoyed by families with little kids in public. A trip to my local Walmart always involves some little brat throwing a screaming fit/tantrum/screaming match. And the parents either do nothing or start yelling louder than the kid to try and get them to stop. It's extremely obnoxious, I'll agree with you there.

Fanboy Wife said...

Screaming children have annoyed me since I was a child, so it's not just your age.

Last weekend I went shopping and when I was checking out, the woman behind me had a screaming kid in the cart. I think he was 3 or 4. He kept yelling, "Ahhh! Ahhh! Ahhh!" He looked old enough to talk. It was giving me a headache, and everyone turned at looked to the noise. About 2 minutes into "Ahhh! Ahhh! Ahhh!" the mother turned to her kid and said, "Shh!" She then turned back to the read the magazine titles on the shelf and tune out her kid. The kid was still screaming as I left the store - I could hear it all the way to the doors. How can parents tune out this noise? Don't they realize there are other people within earshot that have to endure their horrible children?

Anonymous said...

I'm childfree but good god woman lighten up!

Christy said...

Oh, man. You are not alone, and it is not because you are "middle-aged." I believe it is because you are a reflective person who has thoughts---who is not just barreling through life with all the care and consciousness of a bull in a china shop.

I am a lover of heavy metal and industrial music, and I own two parrots who scream at me at least once a day, but I NEED my quiet, and I would say that I spend more time in silence and with silence than most people. Noise has it's time and place. I have to be able to turn it off.

I would agree that families are the worst. Either the kid is merrily making sounds non-stop to amuse itself, usually noises that aren't even words, and the parent is in another world and doesn't even hear it, or the parents are screaming at them, or arguing or pleading with a child who is far too young to care or understand the constant stream of nagging.

One day, in reference to my nephews, I just blurted out to my brother, "How do you deal with that constant, nonsensical noise?! Those kids never shut up with the Pyoo-pyoo's and the hoooootz!" He said, "Well how do you deal with those screaming birds?" "I put them in their cage for a time-out." He just sighed and said, "That's not an option for me. I'm afraid, I don't even hear them anymore."

I am just glad I can have quiet at home.

Little Type Amy said...

I might want to go to Timbuktu also. Finally, someone out there who has the same intolerance for shreiking out of control kids, who just seem to have only two volumes..loud and louder. I feel like they are everywhere I go and cant catch a break.
I had a similar experience the last time that I went camping as i witnessed a scene similar to what you described. There was a campsite dinner at the rec hall, and the lady next to me had 6 small kids who were really annoying and out of control ALl they did was just jump around on everything, bang on the floor,, run around and shriek at the top of their lungs like fiends..making every kind of irritating noise imaginable while we were trying to eat our dinner. I was feeling stressed out and anxious just sitting next to them and observing all this chaos. Im glad that they were set up across the other side of the campground, or else I would have lost it too. I thought people went camping to kick back and relax..have some QUIET time to unwind and get away from it all??..dont know how people can concieve of wrangling an army of toddlers any kind of vacation??what is the point? Anyway, i watched this frazzled lady spend the whole time just chasing these kids around and stuggling to get them sit down and eat for 5 seconds, constantly jumping up and wating on them, meanwhile she couldnt even enjoy one bite of her meal leaving it ice cold by the time she even got to sit about two hours later. ANd of course, everyone is fawning over her for being a good mom for feeding the kids first like she is Mother Teresa and acting like the rambuncious children are just so adorable and everyone else should agree. Yuck. So, I wonder if that makes me selfish because I like having to enjoy a hot meal in peace and quiet wthout feeling unneccessary guilt.the point is that im also tired of parents wo feel like they are entitled dn that they do not have to consider everyone else around them. They seem to think that we love and want to tolerate the noisy commotions and rudeness from their kids because everyone else thiks they are so cute, when this is anything but cute or endearing, its just plain annoying to me and makes me that much more convinced that i certainly do not envy the life of this mother of 6, and is one that I know would not make me happy at all.

Mali said...

I have to agree with you. On everything.

This is why we take our holidays (translation to US English = vacations) during school terms. This meant that we were snorkelling the Barrier Reef with only 2 (well-behaved) children on our entire boat. That there were no kids out at the restaurants, or at the pool. Aaah bliss.

I've always wanted to go to Timbuktu.

LadyTyger said...

I don't think being sensitive to noise is necessarily age dependent. I've hated shrieking kids since I was a young child myself. I was raised to be well behaved in public and my parents would not tolerate it when I would disobey.

I've had similar experiences at camp sites when the blissful peace and quite is completely ruined by screeching parents and children alike.

My husband and I plan on eventually buying a huge tract of land so that we can be as far away from other people as possible. I'm not kidding! We're seriously trying to figure out what we need to do financially to make this dream come true.

I also agree with some of the previous commenters about how there is a time and place for noise. I love music. I especially love to turn up the volume and sing along at full blast when the Beatles are playing or when Sarah Brightman is singing. But I absolutely cannot stand noise for the sake of noise.

Have you ever noticed how quite it is when the power goes out? We are constantly being bombarded by noise even if we're not aware of it. For example, right now, I can hear the office clock ticking, my computer fan running, an airplane outside, the washing machine and the dryer running, and the tinkle of a cat's ID tags. Noise pollution is just as important as any other kind of pollution IMHO because it's more likely to make me loose my mind! LOL!

mitsy said...

I'm kinda with Fashion Puttana on this one. If you let this stuff bother you all the time, you'll never enjoy being childfree in the first place. Most people (those with kids and those without) are noisy and obnoxious - if you're in a city, which it sounds like you are if you ride the train to work, you can't really expect any level of quiet. And a campground with any type of facilities is probably the most family-friendly place you can vacation in - if you want to really get out and enjoy nature, get off the beaten path and do some primitive camping. You can either complain about it or go places where kids and loud people are not in abundance, and even if they are, you can either continue to bitch about it or just roll with it and appreciate your childfree status even more.

Anne Marie said...

I completely agree! Between TV, iPods, Smartphones etc., there isn't any 'quiet time' anymore. And it seems like everyone has just turned up the volume to compensate. I've grown to really hate the horn beeping car locks - what, can't you lock the car doors with the lock and not hit the remote twice to hear the horn. Like there's not enough noise in the world.

Luckily, being childfree I can avoid many places with kids and always schedule my vacations during the school year to avoid as many as possible. As far as shopping - go really early on a weekend (ie 6:30 am) no one is in the store!

Still wish I could find a restaurant that didn't allow kids, or at least expected them to be quiet and behave, since most parents couldn't careless that they are ruining everyone else's dining experience.

T said...

I think it is so self-centered when people loudly talk on their cell phones or let their kids run amok when they should be better behaved. I can understand a little noise occasionally but when it's persistent and parents don't seem to care is when it just grinds my nerves raw. That goes for dogs too, I don't let my dogs bark non-stop, but naturally they will bark at some things... But I don't leave them out in the yard all day and I keep a close eye on them when they do go out, it's just part of being a responsible dog-owner.
Parents should do the same for the sake of others around them.

Elle said...

This, "Parents have no manners or consideration themselves, so they do not teach these values to their children." really says it all. You nailed it. If it's any consolation, I'm 31, and I agree with you that noise seems to be louder/more prevalent; especially from children.

And at campgrounds, it seems to be the worst! On our last camping trip, hubs and I were amazed by (1.) how much noise children can make and (2.) how parents seem to be virtually non-existent. It's like the parents decide, "This is my vacation," and just let the kids run amok. They don't care where the kids are or what they're doing, leaving everyone else to put up with their "cute little angel's" antics.

Water of Life said...

I hear you sister. I may be on the other side of the world but it happens here all the same. I try to manage my life around it. Holidays in the off season to destinations in remote areas. I avoid the cinema and wait till films come on pay TV or DVD. I would not even think about a weekend morning coffee in a cafe - the place is crawling with noisy kids and parents. I shop after hours and have dinner out at weird times like 5.00pm. I know I can't fight how the world is evolving so I try to make my life as hassle free as possible. Sometimes when I happen to be in a place in those "peak" times I actually forget how the world really is noisy. But I am defiantly not afraid to tell kids to be quiet. Someone has to and I see it as helping out the parents as well. These days parents are so accustomed to hearing their kids screaming or as you said are so "enamored" that they have forgotten there is a world out there beyond it. They just need a bit of a reminder. Only yesterday I had to ask the neighbours kids to "stop screaming please" in my best teacher voice. Worked a treat.

punctuator said...

Might be slightly toward the upper end of the age spectrum for "kids," but recently my youngest niece (she's twenty-nine; I'm forty-six; we're both "Whoopses," as far as I can tell) were at a small-venue prog-rock concert. Anyway, all during one of the band's quieter tunes, these two strapping young college dudes, brewskis in hand, stood behind us bellowing about what their favorite songs by this band were. BELLOWING. So, after the song was over, I turned to my niece and bellowed-- BELLOWED-- whilst half-facing our beer-bearing young friends: "DO YOU KNOW WHAT MY FAVORITE MAHLER SYMPHONY IS? THE SECOND!! THE SECOND KICKS ASS!!!!" Don't know if, officially, those guys counted as kids (they were each roughly twice my size), but they were kids to Yours Truly, and they were hella loud during the softest song of the night. So there. Yes: youngsters these days bring the noise.

redwings19 said...

Kids these days are obnixios. And I can't stand them.

However, you have to look at the world as if it was an apartment. Is this "acceptable apartment noise"? If so, then let it go. They are fellow human beings and deserve to make some noise through life.

If no, then do as my boyfriend did in the freezer isle tonight. Two boys were wrestling, and kept distrupting everyone else. Mom didnt' care/wasn't watching/wasn't advising to stop their shenanigans. BF says "knock it off, you're gonna hurt someone!".... in his best parenting voice. Kids stop. THEN mom steps in, and herds them out of the isle.

We HAVE TO ASSERT OURSELVES. Most parents today, whether they chose it or not, are overwhelmed. Sadly, we must speak up and help guide tomorrow's youth.

Little Type Amy said...

Here is my take on what I see as a form of parental entitlement. I have yet another unfortunate experience of witnessing parents who I know use their kids as meal tickets and get out of jail free cards so that they cant get away with anything they want, and they usually do. These people feel that they do not have to be aware or considerate of anyone around them and always get off scot free. Its all a load of BS, and Im so sick of it all.
For example, I have learned that renters have more rights than you think , apparently some have more rights than I do when they have children. My hubby and I have been constantly dealing with lowlife neighbors from hell, who are rude, noisy, and have harrassed and threatened us on multiple occasions. Even my landlord suspects that they are dealing drugs and they do have illegal access to shotguns. We have receieved enough harrassment to warrant notifying the police, but they do nothing.Apparently, this behavior will be tolerated if you have children. Im also fairly certain that if my hubby and I were demonstrating the same behavoir we would have been thrown out a long time ago. We were given hell about wanting to get a cat, but these people are allowed to do whatever they wish without consequence.
If this wasnt bad enough. my landlord is acting like my hubby and I are the ones who have a problem and do not have any right to complain because the neighbors are struggling they way they are. My landlord claims that he cannot ask them to leave because they have kids.The worst part is that he actually defends them to us and comes up with excuses for him. He gives us this whole sob story about how miserable this tenant's life is because he cant find or hold a job, has no money and has two kids that he cannt support. Im sorry, but these wee choices that HE made, and the fact that he is too lazy to work hard every day and pay his rent and bills like everyone else since he is too busy being a badass and theatening to kill my husband and I. But apparently this is fine, we are all suppossed to feel so much better and so tolerant of this all because he and his girlfriend keep popping out kids they know they cannot provide for. I dont care who they are or how many kids they have. They have no right to make us or anyone feel uncomfortable and unsafe in our own homes for no reason, and we refuse to put up with it, but in this town I guess that makes us intolerant and insensitve right?

Gumby said...

Little Type Amy,

I'm sure it would probably be an inconvenience and not your first choice but perhaps you and your boyfriend should move someplace else. Leave landlord with a loser renter who can't pay and a vacant apartment. Wouldn't that be a kick in the teeth? ;)

Seriously though, I'm no lawyer but I believe I've heard that there are laws protecting people who break leases because of safety/harassment issues like this (and therefore don't have to pay any fees and I think MAYBE get any deposits back per your lease contract). - Especially if you have police records on the problems!

Might be worth looking into anyway since your landlord is obviously a loser himself who is going to do NOTHING to remedy your situation.

Sorry you're dealing with this. :(

Little Type Amy said...

Thanks, im sorry im dealing with this too,
Actually,the writing on the wall was there. we have been having reoccurring issues with these neighbors for quite some time and there is only so much you can take.I dont even know how we lasted this long. We did finally find something else and gave our notice.Its all for the best.We had been looking for other places for some time for a whole set of others reasons, but this problem is NOT helping. Moving is already really stressful and overwhelming, but it makes it so much worse with this situation to worry about on top of it all. But we have done all that we can do, and this is really all a sign that its been time to move on.
Its just still so sad that someone is actually backing these people up and sadder still, that these people are actually parents and suppossed to be responsible adults, and apparently having children doesnt change everyone for the better. I shudder to think abbut how their kids are going to turn out and what kind of values they are being raised with.I just dont want to be around to find out and want no part of this.

Temujin said...

I'm an HSP introvert who stays away from noise and big crowds and personal-boundary-violators. And, I prefer people in small doses, all of which is a big part of why I want to stay childfree.

Lately, I've tried to "reframe the experience" (as the self-help jargon says) and tried to think of the children noise as my own personal vindication. Perfect undeniable proof I am doing the right thing by not having children. The louder the squealing, the louder the applause I hear.

Admittedly, that rarely works for me, but sometimes I do actually laugh out loud. Any doubt about my choice (or how great my life is) gets vaporized in a sonic blast.

I know it's better to be compassionate, but usually the best I can do to cope is to think "better you than me!"

Temujin said...

I'm an HSP introvert who stays away from noise and big crowds and personal-boundary-violators. And, I prefer people in small doses, all of which is a big part of why I want to stay childfree.

Lately, I've tried to "reframe the experience" (as the self-help jargon says) and tried to think of the children noise as my own personal vindication. Perfect undeniable proof I am doing the right thing by not having children. The louder the squealing, the louder the applause I hear.

Admittedly, that rarely works for me, but sometimes I do actually laugh out loud. Any doubt about my choice (or how great my life is) gets vaporized in a sonic blast.

I know it's better to be compassionate, but usually the best I can do to cope is to think "better you than me!"

The Blind Tiger said...

A few years back, my hiking buddy and I went to a car campground and had a very similar experience to yours. Nice and quiet for the first couple hours until three cars took the campsites on either side of us.

Two of the cars were minivans packed with kids and three adults. The other was a soccer-mom SUV with four kids and two parents.

The noise was unbearable.

Since then, we took up backpacking. We now camp 25 miles from where we park. We have only ever once run into a child on our travels now. He was polite and well behaved and a pleasure to walk with for a couple miles.

There is nothing more relaxing that sitting around a fire 30 miles from the nearest road, drinking your scotch, laughing with your fellow child-free friend, and watching the sun set in your respective hammocks. Long live the backpackers!