Wednesday, October 23, 2013

'All you need to do is.........."

A number of years ago I was in a Friday night league on the company bowling team.  Through a scheduling quirk we had to bowl on Good Friday and my two Madison cronies, Woody and Davey, were in town for the long weekend.  Several pitchers of beer were consumed by bowlers and spectators and we enjoyed a fish fry after bowling.  I switched to water and the boys switched to bourbon.  Before we left the bar an off duty 2nd precinct cop warned us that there were DWI sweep operations all over town.  Sure enough, I was pulled over within a mile.  When Davey began talking about who was possibly in any shape to drive once I was invariably hauled off to jail, Woody, a lawyer by trade, spun around in the seat, glared at him, and uttered the now classic phrase. "David, all you need to do is shut the flock up!".  I passed the breathalyzer test, disappointing the officer who surely noted that the inside of the car smelled like a distillery that had four kegs of beer spilled on it's floor.  The phrase and it's abbreviation, STFU, has become a classic in certain circles.

Other than satisfying a pathological need to be outside, the other common thread of activities that I enjoy is that they are quiet.  This means mechanical noise, electronic noise, and more and more the free form stream of consciousness babbling of certain people is blessedly absent.  Kayaking, cross country skiing, deer hunting, cycling, and hiking all share the twin virtues of being outdoors and fairly quiet.  As I grow older and more curmudgeonly, my tolerance of unneeded aggravating noise decreases geometrically.  Public transportation is the worst.  I have found however, that once the polite, 'I'm trying to read', and 'I'm going to close my eyes for a couple minutes here' don't work on the plane or train that playing the STFU card is 100% effective.  My iPhone has every possible alert turned off and the ring is just the classic rotary phone ring.  When it's not on vibrate.  If your phone is set to alert you by beeping every time it receives an email, text, or news item, you sir or madam, are an obsessive asshole. In my opinion second hand noise is as aggravating as second hand smoke or being stuck in a room with a wearer of really bad perfume or cologne.  Padding Minnesota's north shore of Lake Superior is beautiful from the scenery standpoint but miserable from the Hwy 61 noise standpoint. Special mention goes to the wannabe Hells Angels on the Harleys who's motto, 'Loud pipes save lives' is as stupid as it is self centered and narcissistic. Special mention goes to the babblers, those people who need to STFU but just can't seem to make it happen.  I know several and go out of my way to limit my time with them and then only in large groups where they have numerous babble targets.  One of my favorite babblers is the one that shows up at kayak symposiums and instruction. The inevitable circle of introduction is where they surface.  My 'I'm Dave from St Anthony, been paddling for 17 years, need to work on my edging', is eclipsed by some dork that goes into how they got into kayaking, the boats they have owned, metaphysical basis for their kayaking, etc. I've never seen an instructor play the STFU card but have been tempted my self many, many times.  The one good thing when the group finally hits the water is that you know who to avoid and where to sit, or actually not sit, for the lunch break.  

But enough ranting, we've all been there.  There are the good sounds as well, the ones that take you to that calm and relaxing place where you forget about all the other aggravating noises.  The sound of the waves rebounding in the sea caves is one of my favorites and I have recorded it many times.  The crunchy squeaky sound of the 0F snow as we crunch across it in our ski boots and the sound the ski pole makes when it plants in that same cold snow.  The myriad of sounds in the woods when sitting quietly in the deer stand, birds and animals that are silent when you pass by and then forget you are there.  Then there are the exciting sounds like the reverb of a glass kayak slamming down on the next wave as you quarter upwind.  The hissing sound of your skis as you blow down a hill and carve a turn or two and the adrenaline grand daddy of them all.  The crunching sound heard in a deer stand and the realization that it isn't a squirrel but a deer approaching over your shoulder. 

It's time to quiet down people.  Relax, look around, listen to and enjoy your surroundings, and think of other people as you move through your day with your mechanical and electronic assists.  And please, I beg of you, try your best to STFU.  The world will be a better place if you do.