Quiet-List 1997

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Introducing myself (long)



   As things seems to be a little slow on the list just now, I 
thought I'd get back to Peter Donnelly's idea that we all might 
introduce ourselves.  While something of this length may not be
quite what Peter had in mind, I find it hard to stop once I get 
going, so I beg your indulgence and forgiveness.

   My name is David Staudacher.  I am the "listowner" although I
like to think of myself as just another subscriber.  I now live in 
Michigan, but I grew up in Kansas and lived for 8 years in New York 
City.

   My interest in noise pollution grew out of a concern for the 
environment generally, which started in high school in the early 
1970's when my girlfriend invited me to join an environmental group 
she was in.  I think I've always been sensitive to noise.  I remember,
at the age of 4 or 5, being so terrified at the sound of my uncle's 
circular saw, that I came running into the house in tears.  It sounded 
like some horrible, screaming monster and I think I was afraid that 
the whole world was about to be swallowed up.  But not just loud 
sounds - the sound of a shovel scraping sand out of a metal wheel 
barrow, while not loud, can be excruciating for me.  For some reason, 
I associate it with the sensation of grit being scraped across my 
fingernails or teeth.  It can feel like an electric shock going 
straight to my spine.  Helicopters are high on my list of horrible 
sounds, and I'm surprised how seldom people mention them.  As they 
approch and pass by the sound changes from a shuddering at first to a 
hammering that can shake the windows.  For me, that sound symbolizes 
all the horror and terror of war, as I'm sure it must also for the 
millions worldwide who have experienced war firsthand.  I also find 
repititious "popping" sounds annoying, as with someone absent-mindedly 
popping plastic bubble wrap or snapping the top on a Magic Marker.

   As a youngster I liked music with lots of rhythm, as I suppose 
most kids do, but I have always been attracted to new and unusual 
sounds.  Like a pop-country tune with a "talking" guitar or when I 
first heard "electronic" music in Junior High - a piece called "Aqua 
Pura" made by layering and varying the tape speed of a recording of 
drops of water.  When asked what kind of music I like, I like to say, 
"Anything I've never heard before."

   I started taking trumpet lessons when an older kid who could play 
really well came to my grade school to give a demonstration.  But it
was as a drummer that I achieved my greatest success as a musician.  
After seeing a performance by a few kids in a local Drum and Bugle 
Corps, I was so awed by the flash of the uniforms and the sharp 
precision of the performance, that I was hooked.  The next two summers 
I was travelling around the state performing in competitions.

   At the age of 14 I broke my right arm falling off a horse, which 
ended my Drum Corps career, but the experience I had still gave me a 
big edge in High School.  Even though I could barely read music (in 
the Drum Corps *everything* was taught by rote) I could still 
outperform all the other drummers in the band.  I also felt lucky in 
that the broken arm gave me a permanent excuse for getting out of 
phys-ed class, which I hated.

   It was around this time that I decided to study music and become a 
composer.  I had learned how to read music and was now in the High 
School orchestra as well as the band.  I loved Beethoven.  Later, Igor 
Stravinsky became my idol when I discovered his ballet music for "The 
Firebird", "The Rite of Spring" and "Petrouchka".  Also around this 
time I first came across the word "quietist" in an old dictionary of 
my mother's - "Quietist (noun). One who seeks or enjoys quiet."  The 
word had an immediate resonance for me, and I started thinking of 
myself as, and calling myself a "quietist".  The word has all but 
disappeared from modern dictionaries, but I think the concept still 
has great merit and potential, and I hope someday to see it stand on 
equal terms with such familiar words as "pacifist", "optimist" and 
"activist".

   In college I expanded on the composer idea in hopes of finding new 
ways of combining musical and visual compositions, such as with 
abstract animation and video.  I still think there is a lot yet to be 
done in this area.  Today's music videos are a great dissapointment 
considering the aesthetic possiblities inherent in the medium.  I 
have seen a few works of "video art" which were outstanding, but it 
seems even most so called "video artists" only think of video in 
terms of documenting their performances.  I spent two years in a 
work-study position doing TV studio work at the college media center, 
and also worked part-time as a camera operator at the local PBS 
station.  Though I was happy enough as a "professional student", I 
eventually got tired of being poor, and settled on a career as a 
computer programmer.

   I don't play drums anymore, but about 6 years ago I took up the 
oboe and became proficient enough to play in a community orchestra.
To my ear, an oboe (played well) produces the most beautiful sound 
of any instrument.  The only thing better is an "a cappella" 
Renaissance High Mass, such as those by Palestrina.  But I also like 
Blues, Rhythm and Blues (R&B), and I like a lot of what's going on 
now in alternative rock.   

   My decision to become an activist for quiet came from living in 
New York City for 8 years.  I had moved near a hospital in hopes that 
the well marked "quiet zone" would extend its influence as far as my 
co-op apartment.  To some extent, it did.  I was pleased to note that 
every arriving ambulance consistently cut off its siren within a 
block or two of the hospital.  A sign at the corner read "Quiet Zone 
- $125 penalty for honking".  But honking was actually the *least* of 
the noise problems there.  It was the unmuffled automobiles and drag 
modified motorcycles (Harley Davidson) that made a mockery of the 
"quiet zone".  As I was then living in the first place I had ever 
"owned", I was determined to do something about the problem.  I 
learned of a New York State Law requiring that all motor vehicles, 
including motorcycles, be adequately muffled so as not to exceed a 
certain dB value (80?) at a certain distance from the street   
(50 feet?).  I learned that even Harley Davidson motorcycles do not 
come with drag pipes.  The motorcycles I was hearing go by at 1:00 and 
2:00 AM had been intentionally and deliberatly modified by their 
owners in flagrant violation of the law.  I figure if someone just 
can't afford to replace a muffler that's rusted through, they *might* 
deserve some slack, but to openly and deliberatly break the law and 
then blast through a hospital quite zone at 2:00 AM is something else 
altogether.

   I figured if I took note of violations and reported license 
numbers to the police, my good work would be appreciated and something 
would be done.  I wish I could say that's the way it turned out, but I 
spent the next 3 years in vain trying to find someone with the 
authority and the willingness to enforce the law.  I tried every 
concievable angle to work within the system, and was thwarted in 
every attempt.  When I called the police, they told me I would have 
to go through the courts.  The nearest court was small claims, so I 
went there and was told to go to the civil court.  The civil court 
told me I should talk to the motorcycle dealers (ha!).  When I went 
to the police in person after work, I was told I would have to call 
"during business hours", and talk to a certain Sgt. Somebody of the 
"conditions unit".  When I finally got someone to answer the phone at 
that number, it was an extremely arrogant person who I remember 
saying, "Sgt who?  Well, he ain't here.  You'll have to talk to me!".  
In essence, what I got out of this person was that the unit operated 
strictly 9 to 5 and outside those hours there was nothing they were 
going to do about anything.   

   I cannot see how a police department can expect to call on the 
support of citizens against crime, when law-abiding, tax-paying 
citizens are dealt such disservice when reporting crime to the 
police.  It became clear that if anything was going to get done, I 
was going to have to do it myself and it would probably mean doing 
bodily injury to some biker.  I didn't want to do that, so I moved.  
Interestingly, the day I moved I was still loading the U-Haul at 2:00 
AM, and for *that* I was stopped and questioned by the police.  I half 
felt like giving them an earful of the real reason I was leaving, but 
by then I was beyond caring.  Besides, they would have probably found 
some reason to arrest me for "mouthing off".  I'm sorry to go on about 
this, but I feel so betrayed by that city, that now I feel nothing but 
contempt for it.  I do hope, however, that through this list I can be 
of some help to those who are still there and are still trying to 
accomplish something.

   I did achieve one outstanding success there, and that involved 
putting a stop to the paging system abuse in the office where I 
worked.  It was a nine-story office building and someone would be on 
the building paging system about every 2-3 minutes on average.    
There was never more than 10 minutes witout a page.  And it carried 
through the whole building (even the parking garage) even though most 
of the pages were for and from people who worked on the same floor.  
Most of the programmers hated it, but everyone was afraid to complain 
for fear of their jobs.  I decided to document the abuse by recording 
all the pages over a two week period and entering the data into a 
database for analysis.  It proved too much to keep track of by hand, 
so I ran a concealed a wire from a paging speaker across the ceiling 
tiles, down the wall, under the carpet and into my desk drawer where 
I connected it to a voice activated cassette recorder.  Coupled with 
a timer which emitted a tiny "beep" at precise one-minute intervals, 
thereby giving the time of each page, I was able to collect an entire 
day's worth of pages on two C-90 cassettes.  In a little over two 
weeks I had collected nearly 2,500 paging "events" and started 
entering them into a database using DBASE-III on a 64K CPM computer I 
had.  In a week or so I had hard data on who was paging who, and how  
often.  It turned out that one or two of the floors were doing 95 
percent of the paging.  People were being paged even when they were 
sitting at their desk.  Hardly anyone was using the mandatory beepers 
that were issued (along with a replacement battery every other week). 
Women employees didn't respond to beepers because they weren't 
wearing them (the beeper was left in a purse inside a desk).  I 
compiled the whole embarassing report into two 3-ring binders, 
included a copy of the excellent booklet "The Power of Quiet" 
published by Northwestern Mutual Life (the Quiet Company) and handed 
over the whole lot, together with the tapes, to the Secretary to the 
Company President.  By then I was pretty sure I'd soon have a job 
outside New York, so I wasn't worried about getting fired.
 
   A few months later at my new job, I got a call from a friend who 
was still there who told me that paging privileges had been removed 
from all the phones and, by executive order, anyone wanting to page 
someone would have to go through the main switchboard.  Paging 
essentially ceased from then on, and the business got on just fine 
without it.  It felt good to have accomplished something, but I was 
amazed at the amount of effort and risk it took to get it done.

David Staudacher - quiet@igc.org 
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