Noise Pollution

Peace and quiet and the eternal screech

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An apartment that fails to be a refuge; a spot where you can shut out the passing throngs even in the midst of traffic; and the reason why some sounds are meant to annoy.

My Vocal Neighbors

My old apartment was inundated with sounds. I woke up to anything from the cheerful tchrring of squirrels, to the thump-thump of cars going over the speed bump in front of my window, to the agonized cursing of a man whose truck had been stripped of its extremely expensive stereo. But it was the people in the apartment directly across from me who produced the most racket.

The escalated exchanges from domestic disputes drifted through the walls and into my living room at least once a week. The culprits were a pinch-faced harpy of a woman and her illegal-immigrant boyfriend, who made the mistake of knocking her up and staying with her until she decided to kick him out, which happened on a weekly basis and was inevitably followed by the sound of his miserable pleadings outside her door. Once he was ejected for good, she turned her ire on the children, her witch-like shriek and unhappy disposition mimicked in variations by everyone else in her household: the little girl loudly scolding her younger brother, the little boy screaming his discontent, their loud voices punctuated by the high-pitched squawks of her two loathsome birds.

Forget the courtesies demanded by apartment living: No one in this accursed family seemed to know how to shut the hell up. —Leilani Polk

The Sound of Silence

Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Plaza is at once the calmest, and the busiest, place in Tampa. Although rush-hour commuters on Dale Mabry and MLK zoom past this southwest corner of Al Lopez Park, it's still easy to get caught in the silence of the place. An abstract sculpture stands inside a semicircle of palm trees; it resembles the sails of a boat attached to a rocket, and the rocket looks poised to launch. Plaques state hopeful, informative messages like, "Some people have been cured from every type of cancer," and "Knowledge heals." The scent of flowers pervades in spring and auto fumes take over in the summer, a reminder of the urban struggle between dwindling nature and omnipresent machines. —Dawn Morgan

Bird brains

On game days, Raymond James Stadium is awhirl with noise — the roaring crowds, the smashing of football pads, the dripping of spilled beer.

But during the rest of the year, the stadium offers a different sonic vista. A singular, electronic sound floats above the empty seats and shuttered concession stands.

"Woooooooooooo-eeeeeeeeeee-EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE..."

The high-pitched electronic whine cycles through the stands and concourse 24 hours a day, seven days a week when no events are going on. "Woooooooooooo-eeeeeeeeeee-EEEEEEEEEE EEEEEEEEEEEEE" as you walk on the sidewalk along Himes Avenue, or cross Tampa Bay Boulevard.

At first, it sounds like a far-off car alarm. "Woooooooooooo-eeeeeeeeeee-EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE..." But it's closer, and higher in pitch, and, well, somehow whinier.

It's "Raven In Distress." Or grackle, or sparrow, or whatever bird flock is in Tampa Bay during the different seasons, a simulated bird distress call designed to repel the winged visitors.

Ray Jay broadcasts a special noise to keep our feathered friends away for a very simple reason: "Birds poop," said Barbara Casey, spokeswoman for the Tampa Sports Authority, which runs the facility. "All stadiums have this problem. It's really a cleanliness issue."

Scrubbing avian droppings off the 65,657 seats and the myriad walkways, stairwells and other features would prove cost-prohibitive. And even if money weren't an issue, Casey said, health would be. Bird droppings can spread disease. So the Sports Authority turns to the world of electronic bird repellent for the unusual sound that convinces flocking birds that trouble is afoot (or a-wing?) and they should stay away from Ray Jay. Casey said the sound is so effective that maintenance officials do not like to turn it off under any circumstances, even for photo shoots or other smaller uses at the stadium.

It apparently does not work on the Baltimore Ravens, but that's a whole different story. —Wayne Garcia


Urban Explorer's Handbook 2007

Sensory Overload Edition

Click here for the other senses

Sound


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The loudest band in Tampa Bay, without earplugs.


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