Natural sounds-waves, wind, bird songs-are so soothing that companies sell CDs and tapes of them to anxious people seeking a relaxing atmosphere in their homes or cars. On reason why environmental sounds are big business is the fact that ordinary citizens-especially city dwellers are bombarded by noise pollution. On the way to work, on the job, and on the way home, the typical urban resident must cope with a continuing barrage of unpleasant sounds.
The noise level in an office can be unbearable. From nine to five, phones and fax machines ring, modems sound, computer keyboards chatter, intercoms buzz, and copy machines thump back and forth. Every time the receptionists can't find people, they resort to a nerve-shattering public address system. And because the managers worry about the employees' morale, they graciously provide the endless droning of canned music. This effectively eliminates any possibility of a moment of blessed silence.
Traveling home form work provides no relief form the noisiness of the office. The ordinary sounds of blaring taxi horns and rumbling buses are occasionally punctuated by the ear-piercing screech of car brakes. "Taking a shortcut through the park will bring the weary worker face to face with chanting religious cults, freelance musicians, screaming children, and barking dogs. None of these sounds can compare with the large radios many park visitors carry. Each radio blasts out something different, from heavy-metal rock to baseball, at decibel levels so strong that they make eardrums throb in pain. If there are birds singing or wind in the trees, the harries commuter will never hear them.
Even a trip to work at 6 or 7 a.m. isn't quiet. No matter which route a worker takes, there is bound to be a noisy construction site somewhere along the way. Hard hats will shout...