Friday, October 07, 2005

A Little Disturbance

The tile guys are still on the job. I’m very pleased with them, everything is moving along admirably. Soon the noise of jack-hammering old tile will be forgotten; the dust will be swept up, wiped up, mopped up; the screaming whine of the tile saw will be a memory; the cats will be home and nearly all the furniture will be back in place.

When the work gang arrived they brought the full range of industrial grade tools, the sort of brawny, heavy-duty gear you need on a job site. Nothing ‘home improvement’ about this stuff, these were real tools for real men. They also brought the one accessory that no work gang seems able to do without: An industrial grade portable radio.

Look at that sucker…it’s wrapped in roll bars. Go ahead, drop a beam on it. Those speakers are more than loud, they’re built to penetrate the cloud of noise generated by saws, hammers, tile cutters, and construction chatter…and they are the single most annoying racket generated by construction.

When I walk thirty feet down the street and stand in front of my neighbor’s patio I can’t hear the construction noise, but the smeared, garbled, vaguely musical but unintelligible, radio is a background sound that pretty well covers the bird song, the sound of wind in the trees, and even the relatively benign white noise of distant traffic.

Tool noise is intermittent. Radio racket is continuous and unrelieved. I’m baffled by the musical sensibility that can have music present, apparently needed, but not listened to. I think that what makes background radio so annoying to me is that I unconsciously try to make sense of it.

The other thing I can’t make sense of is why the guys need it.

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