The strangest thing happened in my grocery store the other day. I was walking around, feeling more relaxed than normal. I moved slower and calmer. I couldn’t help wonder why. But then I figured it out.
The store was quiet.
Not silent…but quiet. There was still the squeak of wheels on the floor and people talking. But there was no loud Christmas carols with Andy Williams proclaiming “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” There was no “Pop tune du Jour” blasting on the loudspeaker. It was almost…pleasant.
And then I realized how many public places I go to now, which used to be quiet, but are now anything but…
Car Service Centers – Ah, the good old days when you read a book or just vegged out while getting your oil changed. Now it’s impossible. The other day I was in the waiting room. There was not one television –but two — both with talking heads blaring out endless, horrifying, stress-inducing headlines. I saw then how there’s no escape from the world’s problems, even if you just want your tires rotated.
Doctor’s offices – Okay, if it’s not the news, it’s a cooking show. What if I don’t want to watch Rachael Ray make one of her “sammies” while waiting for the nurse? What if I don’t need to hear Bobby Flay concoct the best, lip-smacking barbecue rub while filling out insurance forms? What if I just want to God forbid… think?
Airplane gates – I’m not a good flyer and I’m sure I’m not alone. But at most major airports these days, there’s something new. At every gate there are televisions hanging from ceilings. Just in case flying isn’t stressful enough, there’s now cable news (yet again) with the latest alarmist, heart-pounding headlines, including even the occasional…of course…plane crash. Great. Why must we always be “plugged in,” even if we don’t want to be?
Restaurants – I’ve found certain restaurants–especially the chains–feel a need to compete with rock concerts for music volume. The other day, I was entering one with my 80-something year old mother. We opened the door and were met with a wall of sound that would’ve scared off Jimi Hendrix. Maybe its genetic, but we both looked at each other. “Let’s go somewhere quieter,” my mother suggested. I couldn’t blame her.
(And yes, I’m one of those obnoxious people who, if the restaurant isn’t crowded, will ask if they can turn the music down a few notches).
Which leads me to my next question… is it me or is our world getting noisier? Why is there always a need to fill the air with non-essential sound?
Having said that,something interesting happened the other night…
I was watching the finale of “Project Runway,” a reality show competition for clothes designers. One of the designers — who happened to be Japanese — had composed his own song for the models to walk down the runway to. Instead of ear-splitting, pulsating techno music (usually found at these events) he had composed this barely audible, delicate, Asian melody.
As the show began, something incredible happened…
A quiet fell over the room as everyone listened to the soft notes, barely covering the swish of the models’ fabrics and squeak of the floorboards.
About a thousand people grew still. They seemed transfixed by this ethereal, almost-silent march. A hush came over, more meaningful and dare I say… almost spiritual… compared to a throbbing pop song. This designer made everyone in this noise-saturated American crowd…listen.
Coincidence or not, he won.
I realized then there’s something healing in non-noise. Most would agree, the world seems louder and more menacing than ever — instead of more stimulation, why not less?
And that brings me back to the supermarket. Maybe managers finally realized people would stay (and spend more money) if the experience were relaxing.
I hope it’s a trend. These days I take quiet wherever I can – libraries, my backyard, or a local park.
I just never thought I’d add my grocery chain to that list.
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