Either my senses are getting more…ahem… sensitive or I’m getting more crotchety in my old age. I’ve been noticing lately how loud and bright and obnoxious everything is.
Scents are bothering me more these days. I can’t stand the smell of someone who has just come in from having a smoke. Do they not realize they stink? And perfume is almost as bad. Just because you’ve ruined your sense of smell by drowning yourself in it, doesn’t mean I want mine destroyed. Honestly, they might as well let a big pickled-eggs-and-beer fart rip in your presence, because the perfume isn’t really a lot nicer.
And noise. I’ve been guilty of playing music too loud, and of talking perhaps a shade louder than necessary, but really, is it necessary to have your car stereo turned up so that I can feel it in my chest, when I am two lanes of traffic away and have my windows rolled up? You are just ruining your own hearing, aside from irritating me. How about people chewing gum? Or this one… I was offered a ride home today by a girl from work who I like very much. We get along very well, she’s great to work with. But all the way home, she had the radio on. Now, even though it was on low, it was distracting. We had to talk over it. It just seems inconsiderate, or something.
But aside from stupid things people choose to do to themselves, I have noticed that ambient traffic noise, for example, is bad. The volume level I have my little music player turned up when I am standing at the bus stop downtown and when I step off the bus in my own suburban neighbourhood is crazy. Downtown, I can hardly hear the song. When I’m walking up my street, where cars drive only infrequently, I need to turn it down several notches. I have taken to sitting closer to the front of the bus than the back because the engine noise is marginally quieter. I could never live downtown. I could, however, live on a lake, miles from my closest neighbours.
The smell of cigarette smoke, even outdoors, is yucky. I have noticed lately, too, that scents will make me sneeze and my nose stuffy, which they never used to do. There is a small dog somewhere near us that is let out at 10 pm every night and it yaps with a piercing, shriek to be let back in. Sometimes, they don’t hear it for a while, and every bark startles me. I want to scream out the window to shut it up. The hum of the fridge, the trickle of water from the fish tank filter, the kids coughing. The rattling of clothes (or rocks from Jack’s pockets) in the dryer. Squealing brakes, big fat tailpipes, the smell of any McDonalds in the world. Right now, I can hear a car engine revving somewhere a few blocks away. It sounds like a race car. All I can think of is how much gas it takes to prove your manhood – oops, I mean that your car can go from 0 to 60 in 12 seconds. Whatever. Who really cares?
I guess to get analytical about it, people who are noisy must be staving off silence for some subconscious reason. People who always have the radio on… are they afraid to be alone with their thoughts? What if there was no vacuous drivel going in? What would you think about? Oh, my, maybe an original, coherent thought might be born! Maybe we’d have world peace or a cure for cancer, if only we had time to think. My inlaws have a hot tub in their sunroom. In winter, when it is -20 in the sunroom, the hot tub produces a lot of steam. It’s pretty cool to sit in the white noise of the bubbly water, which blocks out almost everything else, and let the steam get so thick you can’t see your way back to the door. When your brain is not occupied by sorting out input, the output gets pretty interesting. I figure these heightened senses are all a sort of sensory turbulence which will eventually lead to the dulling of these same senses, and I will have the opposite problem – sensory deprivation. Some days I crave it. I almost envy those who can turn down their hearing aids and enjoy the sound of their own thoughts.
Some sensory experiences are good. The smell of spaghetti sauce cooking when I am really hungry, or fresh bread. The smell of fresh ground coffee beans or clean, hot laundry. The sound of the rain, or the wind in the trees or Jack’s hysterical giggle when he is being tickled. The little noises our cat makes when she is about to get some milk. Newborn baby noises and smells. The colour of green koolaid and my sister’s blue velvet couch. The feel of suedy fabric if you stroke it in the right direction. How smooth Aimee’s little cheek is when I kiss it. A thunderstorm, during and after (doesn’t it smell green after rain?). A rainbow. A campfire. The crispy autumn leaves in the gutter when you walk on them just to feel their noise. Waking up cozy and warm under the blankets, with your nose chilly from the fresh air from an open window in a 10 degree bedroom.
It is unfortunate that you seem to need to seek out the good sensory experiences, but the less desirable ones tend to be thrust upon you, often against your will. I’m thinking now of seeking my bed. The smell of fresh sheets and how they feel when you climb in for the first time after they are changed. They are smooth and the pillows are plump and the duvet is fluffed and everything is cool and clean and waiting for you to warm it up. Ok, I have to go and recharge before facing another noisy, stinky day tomorrow. You know where I’m headed.