Discovering the Relevance of Words
The Sound of Silence
There is no silence at my house anymore. A city work crew has taken over the street where I live. What they’re doing out there is a mystery to me, but whatever it is, it seems they’re constantly at it. Since it’s a city crew I imagine they knock off at five on the dot, but even when I lie in bed at night I think I can still hear their noise.
Even though the kids are at school, the TV is off, and the washing machine sits idle, I hear the dull hum of giant excavators wresting chunks of earth in great spoonfuls and dumping them in the back of a hollow truck, punctuated by the metallic ping of gravel falling.
The beeeep beeeep beeeep of the back-up signals is what bothers me the most. As a kid, for fun, did you ever pick a word and say it aloud, over and over, until the sound of it suddenly became foreign in its monotony? The beeps are like that; robotic, high-pitched, almost feminine-sounding. Sometimes I wryly imagine that Ke$ha is driving the truck and speak-singing the beeps, in between smacks of gum.
I hear the voices of men yelling at one another to move this way or that, redirecting traffic. I recognize a voice above the others, from a rather dour, middle-aged man, whose sole job is to hold a stop sign, and alternately flip the sign to say “slow.” I don’t like him. He clearly gets off on the power of his position, the chancellor of stop-and-go. Yesterday he left me sitting at a stop for five full minutes, exactly four feet from my driveway. He held the sign with great authority and stared me solidly in the eyes. I wonder if he’d ever known a finer moment in all his life.