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The myriad sounds we hear

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It's hilarious to watch irritated drivers lay on their horns in traffic going nowhere.

Father Eugene
Hemrick

The variety of sounds in a city is bewildering. Recently, I identified sounds I heard while standing on the corner of Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C.

At the Metro station, a young man belted out music on an amplifier that could be heard for blocks thanks to high buildings ricocheting it.

Then, there were the sounds of idling trucks and a firetruck barreling through intersections with horn blasts momentarily filling the air.

The variation of sirens is astonishing. Fire department ambulances have a long wailing sound. Private ambulances are shorter and sharper. Metropolitan police sirens squeal whereas Capitol Hill police sirens sound more like a bass French horn.

It's hilarious to watch irritated drivers lay on their horns in traffic going nowhere.

While riding the bus, we often hit street steel plates that create a big loud thump and sometimes knock you out of your seat.

At this writing, a caravan of police motorcycles and cars have just roared by creating a harmonic chorus of sirens as they escort a prominent diplomat.

Our new electric buses hum whereas gas-driven buses grind away.

Several vehicles have high-pitched screeching brakes, the sound of which goes right through you when they come to a halt.

Sounds of pounding, sawing and banging ring from the growing number of construction sites in the city.

Around the U.S. Capitol are pop-up barriers used to stop suspicious cars. No matter how many times they are fixed, every time a car rolls over them a loud pounding sound reverberates throughout the neighborhood.

Helicopters periodically fly over with their chattering propeller sounds bouncing off buildings.

Most disturbing is cars blasting wild, obscene music through their open windows while waiting for the light to change.

No doubt many of us tune out these sounds. And, ironically, a friend told me, "I used to live in a big city, but when I moved to a quiet country home, I couldn't sleep because I missed the city sounds."

With all the sounds that exist, we must wonder about their impact on our psyche. Are they necessary stimulation or are they stimulation we could do with less for psychological wellness?

- FatherEugene Hemrick is a columnist for Catholic News Service



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