A comedian named Dan reminded me that TV used to stop overnight, and it inspired me to tell my children the horrific truth about life in the old days: "And at about 11.30 every night, they would play the national anthem and we would pretend to stand up and every screen went blank. And all screens in the land remained dead until the next afternoon."
They were shocked. "But what did people do," asked one.
"Many committed suicide while others were driven insane by the silence." (Dads are good at getting the sympathy vote.)
The conversation put me in mind of how little silence we have these days. Reader Josefina Cavallero sent in a news report about an apartment in the UK which was identified in so many noise complaints that police got a warrant to break in. They found 34 audio speakers in the small flat and confiscated the lot. "They left only a CD player plus a pair of headphones," she said.
I remarked that this was kind of them, but a youngish colleague who loves heavy rock, metal and punk shook his head. "The only purpose of putting on loud music like that is to annoy other people," he said. "You don't think anyone actually enjoys it, do you?"
It's funny how young people don't realize that it was the adult generation who actually invented rock music and its accompanying misbehavior. When I lived in London, I was such a naughty kid that people would come to my house to get tips on how to smash up stuff.
Anyway, this colleague, who clearly has a Mission to Annoy, forwarded me a recent news report of a case where the problem was the person complaining rather than the noisemaker. Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., revealed recently that it received 8,670 noise complaints in 2015, of which 6,500 came from one person.
I think it can be assumed that one of the airport's neighbors did not enjoy the sound of planes.
I did the math. Since there are only 8,760 hours in a year, the guy must have complained every hour, night and day, five days a week. WIFE: "Why are you getting up? It's 3 a.m." HUSBAND: "I haven't called the airport complaints line for nearly an hour. A man has to follow his dreams, Janice."
Yet, the best way to deal with noise complaints is to use cunning rather than getting into a fight. I remember some years ago reporting on the case of a myna bird in Nanjing, China. His owner, a Mr. Jiang, decided to invest in a pair of noisy parrots as well, who squawked night and day. The myna bird soon noticed that the newcomers shut up whenever a cat passed the window. Mynas are famous for their ability to mimic sounds, so it started miaowing like a cat whenever it wanted to a bit of peace. "He did it many times a day," Mr. Jiang told a reporter.
In honour of adults, I will now bring this column to a close by singing the national anthem. Kindly pretend to stand up.
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