COLUMN: Sound observations from the booming ‘burbs

Neighbours are making a lot of noise over their perceptions of mighty unneighbourly behaviour.

Police helicopters roaring by as they conduct searches at all hours of the night, blueberry cannons booming across our suburban landscape and train whistles that keep blaring and blaring and blaring – all have been the subjects of complaints in our letters page in recent weeks.

I’ve heard just about enough… of the complaints, that is.

It’s not that I’m unsympathetic to my neighbours’ plights. My family was awoken last week at 4 a.m. for the better part of an hour, while siren-happy officials looked for a suspect in my neighbourhood; I know the sounds of bird-scaring propane cannons all too well; and, I can say with some certainty, train whistles were responsible for my waking up at 1 a.m. for years after growing up a stone’s throw from the tracks in Crescent Beach.

But this is the world we choose to live in. We could have picked the bustling big city or a desolate island; instead, we’ve opted for something in between.

To those who complain that the sounds of the police and fire department doing their jobs are keeping you up at night, I sympathize. As a resident who lives across the street from an oft-visited seniors home, really I do. But I’d rather live in a sleep-deprived world with them, than a safety-deprived world without.

I suspect I’m not alone.

When it comes to the plight of the blueberry-cannon neighbour, I sympathize even more. Whether they moved in during the off-season, oblivious to the continual POP-POP-POPs of the summer months, or they inherited their homes from ancestors there, long before the farms, I agree that this archaic form of pest control seems rather foul.

However, to perennial blueberry-cannon opponent – and equally perennial Surrey civic candidate – Jim McMurtry, whose new plan of action is to lower the boom in small-claims court, I have to question whether the City of Surrey should be the target of his legal action.

Yes, the intermittent propane blasts are unsettling and a nuisance, and perhaps farmers need a reminder that city limitations should be minded, but public sympathy will likely dissipate when taxpayers catch wind of potential costs to their own pocketbooks.

To be fair, one must note this is the only example of the three that is purely profit-driven and not at all a matter of safety. Still, it seems odd that we want to protect our farmland and farmers, yet we want to restrict their ability to succeed.

My sleep deprivation due train whistles is an entirely different matter.

While I can appreciate that the roar of trains and the often-accompanying horn blasts can be shocking to the uninitiated, they are usually music to my ears, having been raised with the sounds of rail travel nearby – first in White Rock, then Ocean Park and finally Crescent Beach.

I remember, in particular, subliminally registering the sound of the 1 a.m. run, which, I believe, sounded its horn with a couple of gentle blasts as it approached from the trestle over Mud Bay.

But all good things must come to an end, and I also remember, at age 12, moving to Clearbrook – far from the tracks.

For years, each night after, I awoke at 1 a.m. to the sound of silence.

It was maddening, as I used those few minutes of wakefulness to reflect on just how much I instinctively craved what to me was the soothing sound of that horn.

Noise to some, safety to others and, to a young child, a security blanket that helped him sleep soundly through the night.

Lance Peverley is the editor of Peace Arch News.


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