When I was a kid, I used to stand at the eastward-facing window of my parents’ room – where the cool breezes always came in, and also the side of the house with the best view – and I would just look out at the garden and the trees before me, and at the streets and roads behind that, and out at the hills and freeway beyond that. If I remember correctly, I tended to do this to cool down either in the afternoon when it was hottest, or in the evening when I could admire the moon and the stars.
We don’t live directly on a busy road or a main road, but we are reasonably close to the freeway, and one of the roads that pass near our house leads to the on-ramp, so it has a pretty constant stream of traffic during the day. And although late at night, and early in the morning, this decreases to a steady drip, the road never seems to be deserted for very long at any given hour.
(Side note: I can never remember the differences between “freeway”, “highway” and “motorway”. I mean, they’re pretty much interchangeable, but I’m sure I’ve had discussions with others about the nuances and which term is preferred by whom, etc, etc. For me, it just feels more natural to say “freeway”.)
I have memories of lying awake in bed on a few nights, as a kid, and just listening to the traffic. Granted, this was probably earlier in the night, since my bedtime was presumably earlier when I was a kid, but I’ve stayed up late listening to the traffic in recent times too, and I’m sure it still sounds the same.
What got me thinking about this was a conversation I had with a friend recently, regarding traffic noise – more specifically, air traffic noise.
Previously, I have noticed that there seems to be a flight path near my house, but it doesn’t go directly over my house so I’ve never really noticed any noise. I just thought that maybe it’s not low enough, but this friend of mine lives a couple of suburbs away (not really that far, actually – probably only one suburb separating us, realistically) and he says he notices planes at all times of the day and night.
He notices freeway noise too.
I actually can’t remember a time when the freeway noise has bothered me – not even one incident of frustration. For the most part, it’s almost soothing, like the sound of ocean waves. I’m sure it’s just background noise to me most of the time.
But I always used to think that I’d hate to live next to a train line, and much less next to a train station. Just imagine all that noise – particularly whenever a train pulls into or out of a station. A friend of mine at uni lived near a train station, and used to complain about the regularity in which he was abruptly awoken by some pre-6am train every day. Now, however, thinking about my freeway noise, I wonder if I couldn’t get used to train noise too.
Maybe part of me sympathises with these late night drivers. I’m sure my younger self would have wondered who these people were, driving around when everyone else was asleep. I probably wondered where they were going, and maybe even made mini back stories for them. One of my earliest experiences of profundity may very well have been in relation to these mysterious other people who existed merely as traffic sounds in the nighttime.