I confess I don’t know exactly what all those early-morning shoppers in my local grocery wanted to hear coming over the store’s loudspeakers, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Aerosmith’s vulgar rendition of “Come Together.” I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something wrong with how we allow ourselves to be regularly assailed by mindless noise. Are we really so frightened of being alone in our thoughts that we prefer insipid chatter to silence? It’s everywhere — the grocery store, the airport, your doctor’s office. Radios or televisions and sometimes both, all dedicated to the unspoken belief that Americans are afraid of the quiet.
And maybe we are. Or maybe worse, we just don’t know any better. Here’s an experiment: the next time you are in such a setting, find the manager and tell him you’d prefer silence, or classical music, or NPR. Enjoy the look he’s likely to give you, as if you have stepped straight off the Mayflower, wearing your clunky shoes and with eleven children in tow.
And perhaps therein lies a solution. Americans should have more children. Because when you’re used to dealing with the natural cacophony of a houseful of youngsters, you don’t need Steven Tyler’s miserable excuse for a voice to keep you company while you search for unbruised pears.