Allergy to Silence


It’s the start of the Songkran festival and the temple across the our house on Moo 9 in Pattaya has set up loudspeakers to harangue the city dwellers into not drinking too much during the holidays.

Debicel level 110.

24 hours a day.

Thankfully I can’t understand a word they are saying and also that my relatives don’t listen to their advice. Last night we drank five liters of palm wine. No hang-over in the morning other than the monks’ droning. Finally someone pulled the plug and the world was serenaded by a chorus of birdsong for several minutes, until a Loso fan decided to play KAO MOTORSAI with the volume knob locked on 11.

Anyone who has lived in Thailand will notice almost immediately that the Thais are allergic to silence. The blare of TVs drown out quiet in every corner of the land. Loud music assualts the ears from every possible stereo device and they don’t seem bothered by two TVs competing with a boombox in the same room. Any time I mention the cacophony the Thais stare at me as if I’m anti-sanuk or anti-fun.

Maybe I’m getting old, but years ago in New York I would have a day of silence on Sunday. No talking. No conversing with anyone. Only reading and later break the fast with THE SIMPSONS.

I even went so far as to unplug the telephone, although not many people called on Sunday, due to my friends suffering from life-threatening hang-overs. It was so peaceful.

Thais love noise. The more the better, although the world’s noisiest people have to be the Taiwanese. Never heard anyone talk so loudly. Almost as if shouting is the only way to get someone to understand you.
My father did the same with a Spanish foreign exchange student. He could speak Spanish, so he turned up the volume of his voice. The poor kid’s grasp of enlgish was rudimentary and he thought my father was alays angry. I could hear him crying in his room after my father asked him if he wanted to go to the movies.

I shouted for him to shut up.

Muted sobs.

Some health authorities see no danger to the public from the incessant noise, however one irate Thai went next-door to his oblivious-to-noise neighbors, who thought they had the right to make as much noise as they wanted in the privacy of their own home. He shot the eight of them dead.

Now that’s a health hazard.

April 16 is Noise Awareness Day, on which organizers want the world to share a minute of silence from 2:15pm to 2:16pm.

What’s the hand of one hand clapping?

A click of the fingers.

Cool like beatnik.

Yes, I really am that old.

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