Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Sound of Silence - Calgary Sun Column, Feb. 2, 2013

By Stephen Lautens

It’s quiet – too quiet.

For the first time in a long while I find myself at home alone. Even though there are only three of us, when we’re together we make enough noise for a small army.

Our house has enough room to spread out and everyone head to a neutral corner, but somehow we always end up in the same place at the same time.

If I ever feel lonely, all I have to do is head into the bathroom and I am guaranteed to be joined within a minute or two by all the other members of my immediate family trying to occupy the same couple of square feet in the smallest room of the house.

Like most families, the kitchen is where everyone congregates, making it one of the house’s noisy hot spots. Our TV is in the corner, and across from it is my son’s computer, so we can monitor what examples of dubious taste on the internet currently amuse ten year old boys.

In the evenings usually both the TV and computer are on, competing for noisy domination.

I gave up long ago trying to watch anything on TV that depends on dialogue. Witty British comedies, movies long on plot and short on explosions or anything involving an interview are a lost cause in our house. There is a TV in the basement, but with the poor insulation in our ancient house you need a buffalo coat to keep your channel-surfing fingers from freezing.

My wife still gamely tries to watch Downton Abbey with my son flipping rapidly through the latest and loudest videos across the room. The two of them keep adjusting their volumes back and forth until I know it’s time to get out of the area before something gives – usually my wife’s patience.

Even off on my own in another part of the house it’s hard to find much peace and quiet. Inevitably, someone wants my opinion on something the second I leave the room, preferably while I have the water running or bathroom fan going above my head.

My son has a big voice. Even in public places – like major sporting events with a crowd of a couple thousand – I can immediately locate him by sound alone. I’m not sure how he’s going to use his natural loudness in future, but the two jobs that immediately come to mind are either hog caller or politician.

I hope he chooses the hog caller.

Even when he’s not in the room with you, I can hear him anywhere in the house through the intercom. “The intercom” is actually the furnace ductwork that he loves to yell into when he’s in the basement so we can hear him everywhere.

But this morning I have none of that. I’m unexpectedly home while my son is at school and my wife is off at an all day yoga class, and the house is eerily silent.

I can watch anything I want on TV. Forget the fact that there is nothing worth watching on the 300 channels we get, but at least I can hear it.

I can also clearly hear the dripping bathtub faucet reminding me a washer needs changing, and the sound I can now hear the furnace make indicates it’s overdue for a service call.

From the noise outside my neighbour has also apparently dragging a sack of fine crystal, bedpans and cats up and down the driveway for the last half hour.

It’s a good thing it’s rare, because I’m starting to think that silence is overrated. 

© 2013 - Stephen Lautens