On Noise, Part 1.
There have been a number of times when, attending the theater or symphony, I have rolled my eyes and fidgeted in my seat in response to the honking and coughing and sneezing of some poor sap in the next row. The problem is, this is almost a sure sign that the next poor sap doing the coughing will be me! (This happened to me this very day.) It's like a divine reminder that before I can remove the speck from my neighbor's eye I need to remove the log from my own. (And just when will that be, I wonder.) So, I have become more tolerant, over the years, of the organic human need to cough, sniffle, and honk. I've come to have a zen-like attitude that, within reason, these sounds are part of the wholeness of the live concert experience.
But the lozenge wrapper is another matter. A fellow concert-goer today unwrapped his cough drop relatively quietly, but then proceeded to (certainly unconsciously) knead the wrinkled wrapper between his fingers for the remainder of the piece. Crinkle... crinkle, crinkle... crinkle.... My eyes started rolling heavenward, I imagined dialogue friendly (uhhh, could I take that for you...) and unfriendly (DROP IT ON THE FLOOR!!!). Of course there is no good approach to such dialogue, so I kept quiet. Good thing, too, because at intermission he proved to be a very engaging fellow.
Now, lest you think you are reading the rantings of the most petty guy in the world, the reason I'm going on about this is to report on a really neat science project I heard about a few years ago. An acoustical engineer proved (in an experiment that was written up in a professional journal) that if you unwrap a lozenge very slowly or very quickly, the exact same volume and level of noise is produced either way! (So get it over with and unwrap it already!) Neat, huh?
On Noise, Part 2.
I take part in a weekly coffee-conversation meeting. It's one of those groups in which whoever takes a breath is the listener. Last week, five of us sat at a table near the front door of our local coffee shop. We were discussing a couple of issues that a number of us were passionate about. We were having a good time. "The talk ran high" (in the words of Gordon Lightfoot), heads were thrown back in laughter. No fewer than four people (customers from tables further back in the cafe), on their way out, passed our table and said, "My, you're a noisy group," and comments to that effect.
In a similar conversation in a similar group in a different coffee shop a few months ago, a woman at the table next to us (working on her laptop), leaned over and said, somewhat severely, "You know, there are other people trying to work in here." I apologized humbly and profusely, but later I had one of those "what I should have said" moments and wondered if what I should have said was something like, "But this isn't a library." Or, better, what another at our table suggested: "This is a coffeehouse!"
Dear reader, were we too loud?
We judge others according to their behavior, ourselves according to our intentions. ~Unknown