As an apartment dweller for nearly 12 years, silence during the first few days of lockdown was disorienting. I’ve grown accustomed waking up to either the two neighboring children yelling at each other or their aunt loudly shushing them for yelling. By the time I’ve made my tea and rolled up my workout mat, the caretaker of the gym upstairs has begun blasting his daily array of power ballads. That’s in between the honks of public transport and the roosters cackling next door. Oh, and weekends spent hungover come with gym-goers stomping away above you. We are still in lockdown, but the streets are getting loud again.
Where I live is loud, and this recent experience of audial peace is the most comfort I’ve had in a while. Growing up in the suburbs, it did take some time (and a lot of cussing) to get used to. However, since lockdown was lifted and with people reacquainting themselves with the outside world, it’s almost traumatic to hear a singular motorbike engine starting.
Quiet on an empty street
I didn’t think it was possible to hear the sound of birds in my neighborhood. It’s become one of the things I look forward to every waking day. I open my door, let my dogs out to do their business, water the plants, and wait patiently. I’ve been fortunate enough to hear them three times a week, and always at the break of day.
In the afternoon, it’s usually a million footsteps going up and down the gym or endless delivery men knocking on the gates, helplessly calling out the names of our neighbors to come down and receive their packages. In the earlier months of quarantine, I’ll only hear the occasional footsteps of cautious people coming from a grocery run or the nearby trees rustling on windier days.
Come evening, it becomes eerily quiet, which I revel in. I wasn’t missing the sound of karaoke blasting from two blocks down or motorcycle drivers racing at the dead of night.
“Covering” my ears
Reintroducing myself to this back-to-clamor isn’t difficult. This return to whatever normalcy is a major adjustment that adds up to an already very long list of pandemic anxiety triggers. It feels like I just moved in and have to relearn to accept everything again. However, living with noise teaches you how to deal beyond wishing you reside somewhere else. I’ve conditioned myself to somehow co-exist with all the shouting and thumping and beeping. The world eased up on lockdown protocols, and the streets are getting loud again.
In this fairly-sized space, I have three sets of speakers on standby. Every corner of the house allows me to play something to drown everything out. It could be Samin Nosrat’s voice in her latest Home Cooking episode or Death in Vegas on repeat.
It also helps to teach yourself how to zone out. No music to cover the outside world. No Netflix show playing in the background. Just you, acting deaf for hours while fixated on an activity. I find reading to be the most effective. It’s like being picked up by a giant hand and relocated to the quietest room in the world. Again, it isn’t instant, but it’s worth a shot.
Mona Mansfield is one of the main contributors of raw and unfiltered thoughts here at Filter No Filter. She also specializes in SEO and social media marketing.