The sounds we ignore (or try)


Local grocery store has a bottle return area that I frequent.

I donít frequent it as in a few times a week or something crazy. Instead, when I have bottles to return, this is normally where Iím headed. The machines seem to run a bit more quickly, are kept somewhat cleaner, and there is seldom anyone else waiting around to use them.

But it isnít perfect.

Nearby are a few vending machines. You know the types. Gumball for a dime. Plastic egg with an eraser, sticker, or football helmet for a quarter. Anything to get some spare change out of the hands of a child. And, there is a claw machine.

For some amazing reason, this claw machine has the most amazingly annoying theme music playing. Hard to explain, but if you drove an ice cream truck through the side of a circus tent into a calliope, recorded the resulting collision of sound and somehow set it in a loopÖ yeah. Clowns in a zoo playing with a bagpipe and keyboard, that would be close.

For some reason though, I can usually ignore the music when Iím returning bottles. I donít know why, I just can. Itís not that the music isnít playing. Believe me, it is. I simply manage to focus in on the task at hand, get moving along with the project of placing the bottles and cans into the appropriate machine, and the music is background noise that isnít registering.

But every other time I walk into this store, I hear the music.

Have you ever wondered why the volume in your house fluctuates during the day?

We donít have neighbors living right on top of us. Street can have traffic, but certainly isnít busy. Itís a nice, pleasant, quiet neighborhood. I tend to think that means the sounds in the house should be the sounds in the house.

Our television thoughÖ the right volume at 8am is too soft at 5pm and far too loud at 4am. Nothing is truly different. Just seems too high at one moment, too low at another, and just right at another.

When we first arrived in this house years ago, there were all sorts of noises that I heard then but donít hear now. I wasnít used to the way the wind echoed into the chimney or floors creaked. The furnace kicking on was a new sound. That type of stuff.

I canít work without some noise playing. The radio or a bit of music is good. Often, Iíll flip on a television. Thing is, Iím not really paying attention to it, but it usually needs to be something familiar. If I donít know it, I start listening and get distracted. (Often because I want to change it.) Strange thing thoughÖ I donít know where the middle ground of comfort and distraction exists.

Out mowing the lawn, I often bring an old iPod with me. The thing is, I never find myself paying too much attention to what Iím mowing, so I kind of catch the flow of the music. But, Iím usually paying too much attention to what Iím mowing to actually know what song is playing. The music is there, but itís not. I miss it when itís not playing, but donít fully notice it when it is.

Weird, right?

Furnace just kicked on. Temperatures have been fighting to escape single-digits as I write this, and will be battling to get into the teens all weekend. But as many homeowners will likely agree, there are certain sounds you hear once in a while, but mostly only notice when you donít hear them.

But like the differing volumes on the television throughout the day, I donít know if Iíll ever make sense out of when I do hear something, donít hear something, or truly end up paying attention to the sounds.


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