Monday, February 15, 2010

In the noise

On Sunday, Valentine's Day, we went to see Richie Havens.  He had been playing locally for the weekend & this last show was apparently sold out.  We did not know it was sold out, we learned this from a guy outside who asked us to sign a petition to get the airboat curfew on the ballot.

Airboats for those who do not know are the shallow water craft you see in bayous, swamps, etc.  They are powered by a giant fan at the back which is powered by an aircraft engine.  Even though much of the noise is left in the wake of the boat, & while modern boats do not have the same noise problem, you will often see the passengers wearing hearing protection on all of the older ones.  There is no disputing these things can be LOUD.

What is in dispute is who cares how loud it is.  For many this is a civil liberties issue (no really) like hunting & trapping; until incomers started building fancy houses on lakes & rivers, no one cared about the noise.  For others it is a quality of the environment issue; these boats are much much safer than the quieter, lower-in-the-water boats that do so much damage to wildlife.  For others it is a quality of life issue: those things really are LOUD.

Here in the blue-county-in-the-red-state. the county commission considered & discarded a ban on airboats from 10pm to 7am.  & I can see both sides:  people using airboats at night are often fishing or gigging for their own food or for very small local sales; the people using them during the day seem to be eco-touristas, at least as far as I can tell. 

Although I can see the side of the night-airboaters, we both signed the petition & once it is on the ballot (I am quite sure they will get enough signatures) we will both vote in favor of the curfew.  Not because being incomers, we side with incomers on all things but because unlike many incomers, we have heard those damn things.  It just is not reasonable that everyone in the neighborhood lose a night of sleep so one family can have a traditional frogs leg banquet.

After the concert, I could not help but wonder how airboating enthusiasts would take to us inviting Richie Havens to play as we observed traditions of our post-Woodstock heritage.  Imagine that we could not comply with the oft suggested but never adopted guideline of 90 decibels at 50 feet.  That means that if you were 50 feet from our stage, Richie Havens would be at the volume of a lawnmower.  If you were inside of 50 feet (maybe in the building next door) it could be more like a subway.  Imagine we did this during church services, the local school play, when court was in session.  Even better, how about while people were trying to get some sleep.

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