Monday, January 21, 2013

The Sound Underneath 

Gardiner Expressway seen at night. Image via Daily Dose of Imagery

I hate washing the dishes. Especially now that I do them by hand, in the sink, like a neanderthal or a neanderthal's less evolved neighbour who still cleans his china on rocks down by the river. The heat of the water irritates my hands. I have Cholinergic urticaria; I know, right? Just add it to the list of "what won't kill you but you wish it would." Basically I get hives or a heat rash when I get too hot. It used to be much worse and I dreaded the summer. In the past it was diagnosed as exzema, which is seemingly a convenient word for "You have a rash" or food allergy or "stress" – which is a convenient word for "I don't know why you have a rash." Then it sort of went away. Then one awful smog and heat-waved summer, it came back. This time the diagnosis was "Cholinergic Urticaria" which is a really an inconvenient way to say "heat rash". Anyway, I control it now with refreshing showers, antihistamines and the occasional ice pack. It's not a big thing, and apparently heat is the most common trigger. For some people it's triggered by loud noises or vibrations. Imagine being at a concert, near the stage and when you get home you have a rash, or you're a construction worker and you spent the whole day on a heavy equipment and after work you have a rash. Everywhere.

So you can see why I particularly hate doing the dishes. It makes my hands itch. Plus, it's so dull. And I usually put it off to the last minute and then spend time I should be in bed complaining to myself about how itchy my hands are. Lately though, I've realized it's the only time I really listen. I play music or a podcast and the dishwashing fades away as I become absorbed in a song or an interview. Those times when I'm really enjoying what I'm hearing I even make up more cleaning-up tasks until the song or podcast is done. Like sitting in the car to hear the end of a song despite being parked in the driveway.

Once the dishes are done. I turn the music/whatever off, and give myself some silence. Or try to. I've heard it's good to quiet the mind with silence. Whoever thought this up didn't live in Parkadale. Outside of the various hummings of a computer or refrigerator condenser, I can hear muffled voices of neighbours, a door creaking open then closing or the running of water in another apartment. Maybe a phone rings.
“Underneath it all, is the droning moan of the Gardiner Expressway.”
Yet, that is nothing when compared to the tinnitus of the City. The constant din of traffic is exasperating. Traffic never stops here. Never. Whether it is six in the evening or four in the morning there is a constant rush of tires on asphalt like a throbbing river of sound but much more annoying than the sound of a river. The gurgles of a motor growing from murmur to growl as a car pulls away from a stop is common, broken only by the occasional clank of a manhole or storm sewer cover being rankled by a driver clusmy enough to run over it. There are other sounds too. There are dogs barking at cats, who hiss their rebuke. Fighting raccoons as vicious as any hurricane make yelling drunkards seem quaint. There are the coughing hoards of zombies. Those men, always men, who haunt the streets with an undead shuffle and are coughing a deep bronchial kind of venom from their lungs. Underneath it all, is the droning moan of the Gardiner Expressway. Mournful trucks wail past with a Doppler-effected roaring gail. Who are they? Where are they going? Why won't they ever stop? It will never stop. As I write this, there comes a grinding shredder of a large truck complaining down my street right now, reminding me of the futility of "quiet". Many nights I've run a fan at full blast, not for the cool air but for the trustworthy white noise to drown out the unharmonious hum from the City. The more I sit in "silence" the more I hear and the more it makes my heart race in a deep dark anger. It's telling me "You can never win." and I hate it, because I know it's true.

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