Posted by: lornasass | August 22, 2010


Yesterday I fulfilled a long-held wish to visit the Royal Garden at Kew.  It was an easy trip from Hampstead on the Overground. (Who knew there was an Overground?)

Almost as soon as we arrived, I noticed planes flying overhead.  When I lay down on the grass a few hours later, I counted a plane every 10 seconds.   Heathrow is very nearby, and the planes fly very low over the majestic old trees of Kew before they disappear into the clouds.  I noticed people occasionally looking up to see the source of the roar, but they had no noticeable reaction.

I felt disgust.

Although I live in New York City, my apartment faces south into courtyards and is a silent sanctuary.  I require this silence to still my mind and knit myself together after experiencing all the noise outside, but that same silence has made me a very uncomfortable traveler.

For example, I’m staying in a lovely ground-level flat in Hampstead and feel eager to sit outside in the garden, but the heavy traffic noise coming from a major thoroughfare around the corner drives me back inside almost immediately.

Forget falling asleep when there is street noise outside the window (ear plugs help, but not quite enough), and I turn on my heels and exit about 75% of the restaurants I enter because I can’t tolerate the numbing noise blasting from the sound system.  I am in a state of constant amazement that no one else seems to mind.

Recently I found myself pondering the difference between sound and noise.  Sounds like birdsong or babbling brooks make me feel happy.  Noise like police sirens, people yelling into cell phones, or cars honking makes me nuts.

When my elderly Siamese cat became disoriented in the middle of the night and wailed, I was startled into wakefulness, but her sound was not noise to me.  It was a call for help.

Love seems to make a difference.

So maybe there’s hope for this human, who is ironically experiencing hearing loss in common conversation but getting more and more perturbed by this noisy world we live in.



  1. Wow, can I relate to what you are saying about noise. Living near a very busy street and only 2 blocks from an air force base and an international airport really does affect you after a while. Though hubby and I have learned to block out the commercial jet liners I’m afraid the air force jets are impossible to ignore. Sometimes I think they deliberately go full thrust because I’ve heard them and they have been much quieter. Is it any wonder people are losing their hearing. What a noisy world we live in!

    • Wow, I’m really sorry to hear that you have to endure that noise on a daily basis.

  2. If it’s any consolation you’re NOT alone, by any means – especially when it comes to deafening restaurants. Also the hiphop/rap shoe stores or indeed the anything stores. And it’s not just about the volume; supermarket music has driven me to abandon my cart and flee more than once.

    Notice with interest you don’t mention dogs. We live in 2 different should-be-quiet rural places and they WOULD be (comparatively) quiet if both neighborhoods were not infested with barking dogs.

    Love does make a difference, of course, otherwise the species would be extinct.

    • Yes, the dogs at Biscuit, Bath, and Beyond (would you believe) lets the kenneled dogs out at 7 on Sun morning and other dandy times all week, disturbing approx. 2,000 New Yorkers who live east of their “barkyard” behind the shop on Columbus. When we spent last summer in Columbia County is seemed like every time I went out on the deck someone started up their lawnmower. The ear plug people are making a fortune…

  3. Hear! Hear!
    I’m in complete agreement and equally mystified at people’s apparently insensitivity to blaring noise. I won’t get started on the long list of noise sources I could add to the above!

  4. Living in the country, I understand your need to have quiet, though I do enjoy the hustle and bustle of your home town (go New York City!). So I’m assuming you can’t fall asleep with a television blaring the latest tragedy on the news?

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