Turn Up the Quiet

One guy’s quest for sonic bliss and a good night’s sleep

| July-August 2005

  • silence

    Image by Flickr user: dobrych / Creative Commons

  • silence

Is your world getting noisier? Pealing cell phones, blaring personal stereos, constant chatter—sometimes it can be difficult to endure the relentless drone of modern life. But beneath the racket, there’s still a creative and natural soundscape all around you—the music of nature, the laughter of friends and neighbors, even the sound of your own inner voice. Perhaps listening to what really matters will soothe your soul.—The Editors 

I blame it on my parents. 

When I was 10 years old my father built a bedroom in the basement of our family’s split-level ranch house in small-town Wisconsin. I can’t recall what expression was most popular with my sixth-grade friends the day I moved into that 12- by 14-foot space—hot, sweet, cool, awesome, or rad—but it was all that: red shag carpet, faux brick paneling, and custom-made shelves for my beer can collection and baseball cards. In the winter, a small furnace in the basement kept the space cozy. After running up a summer sweat, I could seek relief in the cool, cellarlike damp. 

Best of all, it was downstairs, a peaceful distance from my pestering younger brother and totally annoying older sister. At night it was always pitch black save for a night-light in the bathroom and, since my father believed in the money-saving properties of sturdy insulation, as quiet as a tomb. 

I lived in that room until I graduated from high school in 1985. I haven’t gotten a decent night’s sleep since. 

The privileged son of silence, I entered the noisy wild an acoustic innocent. I knew living in Minneapolis as a cash-strapped college student would mean close quarters, older buildings, and a more communal atmosphere. I didn’t know that cheaper housing was statistically linked to mind-numbing noise pollution: that city planners insensitive to the needs of lower-middle-class citizens typically build two-lane highways through neighborhoods designed for the horse and buggy, or that airport runways literally begin and end in people’s backyards. I didn’t expect that construction crews and street sweepers would rattle and hum before sunup, while schoolchildren and working families tried in vain to rest. 

12/26/2013 6:33:57 AM

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