2007.05.02 White noise

Written by David Green.

By JEFF PICKELL

A wise vocalist once said “I’m only happy when it rains. I only smile in the dark. Something something something. Catchy refrain.”

That vocalist is Shirley Manson of the band “Garbage” and I agree with her on “I’m only happy when it rains,” “Something something something,” and “catchy refrain,” but she is dead wrong when it comes to smiling in the dark.

Last Wednesday was a rainy one. Sleeping with my front window open, I was awakened at a dark hour to the appealing pitter patter of drizzle splashing against the sidewalk. The sound elicited from me a deep, happy sigh, while my bladder elicited a panicked two-step rush to the bathroom.

I returned to bed and let the robust precipitation lull me back into slumber. Heaven on Earth.

Since my toddler days I have loved white noise at bed time. I find few things more settling and satisfying than a steady, slow humming in the air. I can’t explain it. I’m just one of those people.

As a child, I would feign sickness so my mom would place the vaporizer outside my door. I don’t really know what purpose this device served, but it was and continues to be the best white noise maker in all possible universes. I would wait for her to turn the hallway light off downstairs—signaling she had gone to bed—and tiptoe over to the doorjamb, where I would put together a makeshift bed of pretty much everything soft I owned—stuffed animals, blankets, handkerchiefs, hats and whatnot—just to get closer to the noise.

They were some of the most cherished times of my life.

In middle and high school, the vaporizer was replaced by a tiny palm-size fan, which I positioned on my bookcase/backboard to blow directly into my ear. I enjoyed many years of good sleep until the poor little thing tuckered out.

In college, I used a giant blue box fan that is probably about three decades old. For me and my roommate Kyle, the big fan was pretty much necessary: only a thin wall separated our room from the elevator shaft and there was no way we were getting to sleep without something to drown out the elevator’s constant “whooshings” and “ding dings.”

However, since moving to the apartment above the Observer, I’ve pretty much eliminated my dependency on white noise—both to save energy and because I’ve become so used to the clanking of the water heater and the streetlight shining directly in the front window that I’ve learned to sleep in most any situation.

My friend Amanda doesn’t have the benefit of such intensive sleep training.

I met her in Ann Arbor Saturday to hang out and maybe catch a flick. For me, hanging out in Ann Arbor translates to walking all over the place and chatting. I love strolling around that city, especially on farmer’s market days. There are all kinds of neat stuff and people to look at, gardens to admire, and parks to count (the parks in Ann Arbor are innumerable).

By the end of the day, we were both pretty tired, so I suggested she spend the night at my parents’ house in Highland instead of driving all the way back to Kalamazoo.

We arrived home to a dilemma. Amanda is absolutely fan dependent. So is my brother Jamie. My brother Jamie has the only fan in the house (well, the only one I could find). I asked Jamie if I could borrow his fan. He implored me to do something that is physically impossible to myself.

After fixing up the guest bed, I offered to sit by it and murmer “buhbuhbuhbuhbuhbuhbuhbuh” until Amanda fell asleep. My hilariously hilarious joke didn’t appease her.

She was kind of cranky the next day. I was too. I can deal with the absence of sound, but I’m still not good with the presence of many noises—especially early morning noises, especially the early morning noises of birds chirping pointlessly. I used to be immune to them, but too many years in the city have broken down my defenses.

I keep a tennis ball by my bed to throw at the window and scare the occasional bicker bird that lands on the streetlight. I’d need a ball machine to shoo away all those birds out in the country.

So anyway, when those birds start a-chirpin,’ at the absurd, dark hour of 5 a.m., I do not smile. I mutter terrible, dark noise and pray for West Nile to befall all of those winged critters.

    – May 2, 2007
  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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