Twelve Sources Of Noise Pollution
It used to be that there were a baker’s dozen (13) major sources of noise pollution outside my home at 1313 Towanda Avenue, Bloomington, Illinois, United States of America, but my elderly neighbor who ran a metalwork shop out of the shed in his backyard, with metal shearing, grinding, and screeching noises, passed on a couple of years ago. I never asked what he was doing, that was his own business. He was a retired navy veteran, but he succumbed to dementia and wandered the neighborhood in confusion before he died.
I live on a 4-lane highway without side berms, without a center median, just lane-to-lane heavy traffic always maxing out the speed limit of 45 mph, and frequently going much more. Towanda Avenue is not an avenue, it is a highway with a center turn lane down its length, so in actuality it is a 5-lane highway of heavy traffic, running directly in front of my home. These five lanes of constant vehicular traffic include huge trucks that speed crashing into the potholes trying to make the traffic light at the top of the hill. My entire house shakes when that happens and the city’s haphazard pavement patches do not cover and do not hold so it never ends. The traffic is interspersed with cars of college students from the numerous institutions of higher learning located within a mile of my home. Occasionally the students rev their engines and exercise their vocal cords as they drive by. I think of them as exuberant urban fauna loose from Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University, Heartland Community College, Hairmasters Institute of Cosmetology, and Bloomington Normal Barber College.
Google reviews the local bus service, Connect Transit, as "Worst bus service , the drivers need to find a new day job!", "The guy drove right past me and I can't run because as I said I am injured.", The buses aren't stopping at Towanda & College but there wasn't any sign to let riders know this. That is the biggest problem I have with Connect Transit is changing a route with no sign posted at the bus stop.”, "It's a dollar, people!", and “Love the bus system!...”. My review would read “Stop speeding past my house with your crash of noise and belch of exhaust.” I am also on the Illinois Central School Bus route but have no complaints in that regard.
The Illinois Shakespeare Festival produces summer plays in an open air theater located just one block away on the lovely grounds of Ewing manor. The pre-show jazz music reverberations, and the yells and crashes of the actors as they bawl and brawl through the play, echoes in the neighborhood rendering their acting down to mere unpleasant noises. Ewing manor also hosts outdoor weddings amid the flower beds on most weekends during the summer. The loud sexy music intrudes into my home and is bothersome. When it ceases exactly at the hour of ten o’clock PM, it leaves a void that reminds me that I am old.
In season the drumbeats of the nearby Bloomington High School marching band and the crowd’s distant cheering fill the evening air in a pleasant way. Someday a young family will inhabit this house again and they will probably attend those sports events.
Many airplanes fly overhead, exciting vintage aircraft from the Prairie Aviation Museum and commercial flights from the Central Illinois Regional Airport. I thrill to that rumbling noise each time and every time. I would like to go too, wherever they are flying, I would like to go too.
St. John's Lutheran Church across the roadway from my house is a huge church, school, and recreational facility with a lot of comings and goings. Throughout the year they have closely monitored events for their children on the lawn, with screeching, yips, and loud calls to be quiet. In the early evening turkey vultures majestically ride the thermal air waves above the church, before retiring silently to the woods behind Ewing Manor. The turkey vultures seem oblivious to the human activity below them. The church mows their extensive lawn with an incredibly loud industrial-sized mower. Still, this creates a park-like appearance that enhances my own property. Not so for their five-story cross that towers in the view of my living room picture window. This cross is strange because my understanding is that the Lutheran Rose has been Luther's emblem since 1520. Ah well, they have been good enough Christians in the ten years I have lived across from them, even if they do mow too often, too long, and too noisily.
This is an elderly neighborhood, families that grew up here have moved away, typically leaving grandparents behind in the family home. These elders’ standards for mowing are high, and they mow their grass low, often twice a week. When I work outside in my yard, I frequently endure the giant mosquito whines of two, even three lawnmowers in adjoining yards. The noise of mowings and the sharp smell of green leaf volatiles from the cut grass is irksome. I love the tall grass prairie, but I have a standard lawn because city code states: “Weeds and grass may not be taller than 8 inches. When a notice to destroy weeds is issued homeowners are given seven (7) days to cut the grass. If it is not cut upon re-inspection the City’s contracted company will be hired. The cost of mowing will be assessed to the property’s taxes.”
What fills me with dread are the frequent sirens of ambulances heading to either of the two hospitals located within a few miles of my house: Bromenn Regional Medical Center and OSF St. Joseph Medical Center. Many times, in the years before my parents passed, I called an ambulance to get them to the emergency room as their old age crashed down upon them. Heartbreaking. I have never been in an ambulance. Each time when I had my heart attack, when I had my strokes, I lay where stricken until I recovered enough to drive myself to the emergency room. It would have been much better to call for an ambulance but I was disoriented and did not think of it. I am determined to go via ambulance next time, but the sirens frighten me so. Not to mention the half dozen fire departments in Bloomington and Normal, Illinois, two of which are located less than half a mile away, with fire trucks frequently screaming past my house. Neither police department typically patrols this neighborhood, they appear to be staked out in the poorest neighborhoods to draw their quota of speeding tickets. How is that fair? Well, at least there is no noise of gunfire in my neighborhood.
One of my neighbors is a young, first-time home owner whom I seldom see. But she has sporadic quarrels with her boyfriend which spill out into the yard, always in the middle of the night. This big, handsome boy leaves with as much drunk drama as possible, often coming back an hour later to have another yelling go at it.
There is a surprisingly high volume of foot traffic along the sidewalk in front of my house, most of it friendly if spoken to, but otherwise silent. In winter I keep the sidewalk clear of snow for observant walking members of the Moses Montefiore Temple on the corner of this block. Their piety reminds me to be reverent. It is the youth ambling out from Bloomington High School, or Towanda Plaza Shopping Center, or much further a field if they are drifters; that tend toward vocal as they pass by. The drifters glare into their own misery and sometimes mumble—scary, and I avoid them. As for the neighborhood youth, their strength flows in their voice and stride. I would not say they are clamorous, vociferous, or uproarious, but it feels that way. When spoken to some youth affect a feral wariness. Even indoors I occasionally hear a group of youth chattering by. I wonder what youth talks about in the beginning of the twenty-first century? When I work in the front yard quite a few greet me, “Hello, Good Morning!”, or compliment my iris beds.
None of this human noise deters the dozen or so crows that dominate the airspace above our neighborhood with their harsh, aggressive voices. I have seen crows easily catch and eat song birds, so I worry for my precious little brown wrens. I hung wooden wren houses for the wrens under the eaves of my house, as close to the back door as possible for protection. My wrens occupy these birdhouses all year round, sheltering within my rose bushes as they come and go. The crows frequently alarm call out when my old Cat Margaret is outside on the patio, and when I come outside in her defense, they arrogantly caw at me too. The crows must dive bomb the cat because she has learned to sit underneath the full-leaved hostas or in the doorsill when she is outside. I suspect that it is the crows who have taken some little nicks out of her nose.
Behind A Noisy Truck by Annmarie Throckmorton, 2017.
Caption: St. John's Lutheran Church In The Mist by Annmarie Throckmorton, 2017.