Friday, August 01, 2008

Bongos and other forms of noise pollution

Of all the different kinds of pollution out there, noise pollution is the one that really drives me crazy.

Littering is annoying but at least it's easy to deal with. If someone tosses a cigarette butt on the beach, you can pick it up and throw it in the garbage. But if someone is playing bongos on the beach, it is much harder to pick them up and throw them in the garbage.

I'll probably be run out of Vancouver for saying this but there is nothing worse than being forced to listen to some talentless, dreadlocked white guy banging away on a set of bongos in public.

No wait. There is something worse -- being forced to listen to a whole bunch of talentless, dreadlocked white guys banging away in a drum circle in public. (Hippies. Drum circles. Matthew McConaughey. Shudder.)

I don't have a problem with bongos per se. They're all well and good when played by a real musician in a real venue or when played in the privacy of your own home (preferably with the windows shut and not at 2:30 in the morning).

What I have a problem with are the obnoxious idiots who think it's perfectly acceptable to pull out a pair of bongos in a quiet park and start slapping away without any sense of respect for the people around them.

Unlike other musical instruments, you don't actually have to know how to play bongos in order to play them. You can also be completely drunk or stoned and still be able to play them. Which explains why the "wicked groove" you think you're banging out is actually nothing but noise to the rest of us.

Anyway, this entire preamble serves to set the scene for a run-in I had with a bongo player in Vancouver the other week.

I was on my way to Bowen Island but missed the ferry because the bus was stuck in traffic for two hours (don't even get me started on public transit in Vancouver. This is a rant about bongos, not the bus. But, on a side note, why is it that so many bad things start with the letter b? Bongos, buses, Bob Saget).

By the time the bus finally arrived in Horseshoe Bay, the ferry was long gone and the next one wasn't due to arrive for another two hours. Since there was nothing I could do, I decided I may as well get some take-out food and try to decompress in the park.

Just as my blood pressure started to go down, a white guy wearing a puffy wool cap over his dreadlocked hair sat down a few feet away from me. My heart sank when he pulled out a bongo and started to play.

For those of you who have never been to Horseshoe Bay, let me describe it for you. Horseshoe Bay is a small, um, bay shaped like a, um, horseshoe.

It is ringed by steep mountains on all sides (well, except for the side facing the water). Its size, shape and geography makes it a natural echo chamber, which serves to amplify the sound of bongo beats as they ricochet off the mountain walls.

In other words, there was no way to escape the sound. Trust me, I tried. I walked all the way to the far end of town but I could still hear Mr. Rude Obnoxious attempting to bang out a rhythm on his drum.

Badda badda BAM! Badda. BAM! Over and over and over again.

What would drive someone to impose their loud "music" on innocent bystanders in a public space?

Judging by his counterculture uniform, I assumed the bongo player wanted the world to know he is a socially conscious, politically aware, left-wing kind of guy. Maybe playing bongos in public was his way of rebelling against "the man."

Personally, I don't trust these sensitive new-age men with their patchouli oil and their "I'm so deep" attitude. My experience with these types of guys is that they're usually just overcompensating for the fact that they are huge assholes with rage issues, brought on by the guilt of being raised in wealth and privilege.

Leave the drums at home.

While we're on the subject of summer noise, honourable mention goes to the excessively loud motorcycles that cruise up and down my street all day. The modified mufflers on these bikes are so loud that they actually set off car alarms.

Also, lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, weed-whackers and leaf blowers? Hate them!

All of this noise is driving me crazy.

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