I guess noise is in the ear of the beholder

On Friday, April 2, I awoke in a hotel room on Saint Simons Island, one of my favorite places on the planet. My wife and I had gone down for a quiet weekend anniversary getaway. Unfortunately, it was 7:40 a.m., and we were awakened by a roaring leafblower.

The wind was blowing a steady 10 to 15 miles per hour, and leaves were swirling. The guy would blow leaves from here to there, and the wind would blow them from there to here. It was a useless exercise that I’ve often seen repeated by workers in Columbus and other cities. I guess the folks get paid whether or not it makes a difference.

I long ago came to grips with the fact that folks hate leaves. I go through the motions each fall with my leaf-hating wife as we raise a ruckus and blow leaves off of our lawn, only to see 3 million leaves fall from the trees back onto the lawn in the next 15 minutes.

“Um, what was the point of all that work and noise?” I’ll ask.

“Fine! Since I’m the only one who cares about the yard, I’ll do it myself!”

“Can’t we wait until all the leaves fall and then blow them away at one time?” I’ll ask, seeking a logical response.

“Uggghhhh!” comes the logical response.

I accept it. Leafblowers and their godawful noise are here to stay. But 7:40 a.m. is too early for leafblowing or noise in general — anywhere, but especially on Saint Simons Island. I go to this place for peace and relaxation. The only noises I want to hear are seagulls, waves crashing against the rocks, and customers looking at their bills from seafood restaurants and yelling, “Ten dollars for that little margarita?!”

“Hush! You’re embarrassing me again,” my wife admonishes.

I guess noise is something that bothers me a little more every year as I grow into a cantankerous old geezer. It wasn’t always that way, though.

When I was young, I enjoyed banging my head with the crowd at a Beastie Boys concert, roaring through the countryside on ATVs and the cacophony of dings, beeps, bings and bells that confronted you when you walked into the arcade.

Then when I had an infant son who’d finally gone down to sleep, noise became my mortal enemy. Folks would come by with their boom-boom car radios and wake him up, prompting me to politely ask them to turn it down, and politely throw a rock at their vehicle on the second pass. You know these folks. They turn their stereos up when they are around people so that they’ll be noticed. I think it would be more effective if they just put signs on their vehicles that read, “Please notice me. My mommy didn’t pay me enough attention as a child, and I’m needy.”

Ever since those days, it seems nearly every noise grinds on my nerves — leafblowers, vehicle engines purposefully made louder, TV commercials, sonic booms and the incessant beeping of construction equipment putting in a new section of our subdivision.

“I get it, I get it. You’re going backward! A lot!”

This past week, though, we’ve contributed to the noise as construction guys have been converting our back screen porch into an enclosed sunroom. (You win, pollen! I give up!)

There is one construction sound, though, that is literally music to my ears — salsa music. Just as when our house was first being built, when I hear salsa music, I know that serious progress is getting made. The folks I’ve seen working to the tunes of salsa music — whether here in the United States or on weeklong Fuller Center for Housing builds in Nicaragua — are some of the hardest-working folks I’ve ever met. They also are some of the most under-appreciated.

I can’t speak Spanish other than to point at the fridge on our porch and offer, “Agua, si. Cerveza, no.” But to all these folks playing the salsa music and getting the job done, allow me to say one thing — “gracias.”

Unless you’re toting a leafblower, of course.

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