You know that feeling, that deep seated anger and helplessness you feel when a boom car pulls up next to you at the 7-11? You’re just trying to put gas in the tank and get on with your day, when all of a sudden the pavement beneath your feet shakes, and your stereoceillia – you know, the bundle of fibers in the inner ear hair cell that mechanically responds to vibration – gets so stressed, you’re going to spend the rest of your life struggling with tinnitus just because you stopped for gas.
But the kids in the boom car are oblivious to your pain. Apparently, they’re enjoying the music at decibel levels that rival those expressed by a jet engine taking off in the parking lot next door. How can they even identify it as music, you ask? It could be the sounds of the End Times, or the first rumblings of a tsunami for all anyone knows. There is no deciphering anything musical, with the exception of that deep, sonic, rhythmic boom, boom, boom that tells you someone was concerned with a beat here.
If you’re not sure where this is going, I’m straying from my usual textbook style blog posts to vent about boom cars, and their menace to society and all things decent.
Don’t get me wrong, I love music, and I love mine loud -- louder than is probably safe for my hearing, but not so loud that I can’t hear it. I like to decipher the lyrics and separate the instrumentals, and I believe that if you’ve never listened to Ode to Joy at vibration-causing decibels, you’re missing a spiritual experience of epic proportions. But I digress.
I do this risky music listening business with headphones because I am a considerate human being who does not want to force my need for high volume on anyone else. It’s rude, and dismissive of their space. But my listening habits couldn’t begin to rival the decibel levels of a boom car.
I understand the need to feel great music pulsing through the nervous system, I grew up listening to my music Pete-Townshend-went-deaf-because-it-was-so-loud, loud. We played our music loud but we didn’t take it to ear the drum shattering levels of today’s boom cars – and we’re still going deaf!
It makes you wonder if this generation of youthful boom car riders are going to be getting cochlear implants at age 25 due to their recklessness.
An organization called Noise Free America believes that the U.S. needs to reestablish an office of noise abatement and control. Noise free America believes that noise pollution has reached epidemic proportions, and we’re all going to go insane because of it.
Not really, I made that insane part up, but I do believe boom cars will drive 70 percent of the U.S. population insane, and that’s probably a scientifically provable figure.
The boom car industry is, well, booming and there seems to be no end in sight. Young people do not believe they will ever go deaf, and they don’t care if the rest of us do. Even more horrifying, their cars are integral to their 21st century version of a mating ritual. I can see the attraction – there can never be conversation, so no need for social skills, demonstrated brilliantly by the unwillingness of boom car owners and passengers to show an iota of consideration to anyone around them. So these couples are made for each other.
The boom car industry has also taken a terrible thing to new levels, in addition to promoting boom cars on the highway – you know, those same highways the rest of us travel? Creating an everyday hazard to society apparently isn’t enough. The boom car industry now underwrites national and international competitions that award those who can produce the loudest sound from their boom car. Wait, it gets even more incredible.
The boom car industry isn’t creating this monster alone – it has help from stereo companies that create the specialty stereo systems that blast music at outlandish decibels within the small space of a car! And it has help from an entire niche of auto body and electronics companies that build the cars and make them all shiny and pretty and irresistible to young, impressionable people who haven’t experienced the ravages of hearing loss yet, but who are desperate to pick up girls. It’s a lethal combination. And boom car owners, most of whom are about old enough to work minimum wage jobs if they’re not up all night trolling in their boom cars for girls, are spending thousands of dollars to get their boom cars ready for these competitions. Maybe they have excellent paper routes.
According to Noise Free America (NFA), these boom car competitions are called dB drag racing competitions, and they say that these contests are “not just ‘boys being boys’ or ‘good clean fun.’" Noise Free America says these competitions create death machines, due to the extreme intensity of sound and the ultra-low frequency levels produced.
Now this is really important – the extreme density of sound and the ultra low frequency levels produced – to sit in some of these boom cars during a sound competition, NFA says, would mean instant death.
“This type of vehicle is reinforced and highly modified to accommodate the massive amounts of amplifiers, sub-woofers, and electrical equipment,” the NFA report says.
The sound produced by some of these monsters is accomplished by remote control. More contestants than you want to know have blown whole ear drums in these competitions, and these are people who are still in their teens and early 20s. Unlike lizard tails, ear drums don’t grow back. Someone should explain this to them.
And, though some of these boom cars are not street worthy, young people who witness these competitions are inspired to go home and build their own boom car to drive on the street. Thus, even more of these hazards are on the road to menace and disrupt the peace and safety of society, and all that we know to be good and decent.
Boom car operators thrive on getting attention and being noticed. The more intense the decibels and the lower the frequency, the more respect and bragging rights they have over their peers - at least until the instant death part happens.
As the detrimental health effects of noise become better understood in small and large communities nationwide, efforts to curb repeat offenders at every level are increasing. That includes everyone, from club owners and concert venues to the inconsiderate noisy neighbors who keep the party, and the music going into the wee hours when everyone else is trying to sleep.
Possession of earthshaking bass comes with a responsibility not to deafen the neighbors.
So say Richmond, California police, who traditionally field about as many complaints about this form of music sharing each year as they do about gunfire.
But, unlike gunfire, up until now officers only ask offenders to turn it down. Otherwise, they need verbal warnings, written warnings and possibly decibel readings to take action against an awful 2 a.m. backyard party.
The consequences for disrupting the neighbors with excessive noise in Richmond, Virginia will change, however, if a proposed ordinance about community noise passes City Council, adding teeth to a tooth-challenged municipal code about ticketing and fining noisemakers.
"Traditionally we've been using a decibel reading," Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus said. "While that's helpful for determining exactly how loud the noise is, this ordinance would make the standard more reasonable."
The proposal passed the council's Public Safety subcommittee in December, and the full council will take it up at a meeting in March, Magnus said.
The amended code would strip much bureaucracy from the process of delivering consequences to noise polluters, and also lower the bar for collecting evidence of noise pollution.
Police must now follow a lengthy process of verbal and written warnings, and take noise measurements, before ticketing anyone who declines a request to reduce the volume. It's mainly geared toward curbing repeat offenders.
The new ordinance incorporates the same standard most community members use, labeling it problematic if it sounds too loud to a reasonable person, from a certain distance away. That makes it more useful for officers trying to stop an immediate problem.
If police deem it so, they may issue a ticket if the noisemaker cannot quiet down within a few minutes of a warning.
Still, the proposal remains a work in progress according to an organization that represents industrial business in Richmond.
Representatives from the Council of Industries and a group that represents owners of large apartment buildings in the city recently met with Magnus and City Manager Bill Lindsay to discuss their concerns, and plan to do so again, before the item reaches City Council next month.
"We told them that we understand where the police are coming from. They want to put teeth into the (noise) ordinance, and we are supportive of that," Council of Industries Director Katrinka Ruk said.
But business owners remain leery of adding another layer of noise regulation atop existing zoning law and the city planning department. They also worry about police regulation hampering new construction.
Given that police receive few complaints about industrial noise, and given that plenty of regulation already exists for it, Ruk and the council's constituents believe industry should not fall under the purview of police.
A final version of the proposal is currently being drafted.
Excerpted from an article by Karl Fischer, West County Times blog.