Friday, August 06, 2021

The Rhythm is Going to Get You 

What's that lil' bird? I can almost hear you.

We'd had a few days of high heat which meant my windows were closed and the a/c was on, then the temperatures broke and it was quickly cooler outside than inside. This meant I could open the windows and that's when an odd thing happened. It got quiet. The roar of traffic sounded low and distant. I could hear a streetcar's air brakes breathing. The fan of a nearby building's a/c whirred. Birds were chirping and twittering busily. A slight shush of gentle rainfall was a background to it all. Then the blare of a car horn, the rise of a straining truck engine moaned, the whine of a car's brakes that needed changing and the clatter of someone moving a garbage bin all combined to end the relative quiet. Moments later the cacophony of the street quelled again. Then it returned. I soon realized the waves of sound alternating with peace was simply the traffic lights changing at Dundas (aka "The Street With No Name") and Parliament.

The pandemic meant for a brief time that the city did seem quieter but in my neighbourhood where Parliament Street is an important access to the Gardiner Expressway and the Lakeshore and with Dundas (aka "The Street With No Name") as a major route into the downtown core, traffic sounds returned to pretty much normal far earlier than other parts of the city. I've always known this is a busy and noisy area. Around midnight on Monday nights, there is commercial garbage pick-up that happens twice: once eastbound on Dundas and a second time southbound on Parliament. Both times, the noise is incredibly annoying and can last 10-15 minutes each time. I have gotten used to it in the sense that I turn the volume of my TV or music up to block it. The funny thing is that when there is a break in the general noise, it is always because for whatever reason, the traffic has subsided.

Several years ago, the TTC replaced the streetcar tracks at Dundas (aka "The Street With No Name") and Parliament. The noise was relentless and due to its high priority went as late as 11:30 PM. An unexpected bonus however was when the construction shut down on Friday of the long weekend, the intersection was impassable thus blissfully quiet for three days. It's easy to see that most (and I do mean most, as in 90% or more) of the pollution I'm exposed to (air, noise, light) is a direct result of automobile traffic. The heavy particulate seen on my window sills? From cars and street traffic. The noise is obviously from cars, garbage trucks, delivery vehicles and motorbikes fitted with penis enlarging exhausts (dear motorcyclists, adding a noise maker to your crotch rocket really just broadcasts your feelings of inferiority and in no way enhances anything). Lastly, street lights and traffic lights mostly exist for cars. If these lights were really for pedestrians, they'd be much dimmer and lower.

All of this occurred to me recently when I was passed by an electric vehicle that rolled by making no more sound than its tires rolling over the asphalt. I wondered what would it be like if every vehicle on the street were that quiet and clean. I could breath easier and open my windows more often. I'd hear birds more often. I'd hear gentle rain more often. Electrification wouldn't eliminate all the air and noise pollution but it would eliminate a lot of it. Thinking of this makes me wish that the "electrification" of our world would be a huge benefit by not only diminishing carbon and petrochemicals pollution but also noise pollution. I'm sort of hoping that electric cars will also discourage people from cranking their car stereos because it uses too much juice but let's just tackle one problem at a time, then maybe we'll still have a society to electrify.

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