Sometimes it's fun to find out about the quirks of people you know. Well, here's one of mine: I have a problem with noise.
I'm not the only noise-averse person in my family. My father has been known to wander around looking for the source of noises that bother him. Once he drove around town at 5 a.m. looking for the beeping that had woken him up. It turns out it was the sound of garbage trucks backing up several miles away. I've heard that my granddad is the same way.
Given the tendencies of the men in my family, I can only assume that my mother has been amused by the stories that my wife tells her about me.
My issues seem to come to the fore around this time of year. I like the 4th of July, or at least I like the patriotic part, but I dread its coming every year. It seems that a lot of people see Independence Day as the time to make noise: popping noises, banging noises, whistling noises, crackling noises... and I can't stand noise! I don't really blame my neighbors, nor am I upset with them. They're just doing normal, acceptable things for this time of year. Unfortunately, it just happens to drive me nuts.
I can't say when it started, but since childhood I've had a problem with noise. Whether it's an overly loud TV, the noise of a crowd, loud music, motorcycles, screaming children, or firecrackers, it all makes me anxious and irritable. The fight-or-flight instinct kicks in and all I want to do is get away from it. Part of this sensitivity may be due to fact that I have excellent hearing (which was recently reaffirmed during an employee physical). Of course, it's also possible that I have good hearing because I have an aversion to noise.
I'm extremely protective of my hearing. If I'm at an airshow, using a weed-eater, vacuuming, or working in a relatively loud environment, you can find me wearing earplugs. I have even worn earplugs to a movie theater. Recently a friend of mine in my company's safety department asked to check the decibel level at which I kept my mp3 player (it was out of curiosity, he wasn't auditing me or anything). He held an earphone up to his meter and said that he was impressed; I'm one of the few that maintain their music at a safe volume.
The horrible irony is that I can't enjoy a quiet environment either. Every creak, whisper of air, or distant sound grabs my attention and wrecks my concentration. That's why I'm constantly listening to music. I was relieved when I read on Orson Scott Card's blog (Card is one of my favorite authors) that he always listens to music while writing for this very same reason. It's comforting to know that I'm not the only nut out there.