I work out at my local YMCA. At my rapidly advancing boomer age,
I am all about extending my shelf life. Exercise is an important
part of the routine, though I often have to give myself a
motivational speech to actually do it.
But once the automatic doors part and I enter the gym, my whole
attitude gets more upbeat. I quickly fall into the rhythm of
moving, pumping, walking, breathing and sweating - lots of
Part of my routine includes a power walk on the indoor track. As
I count down the completed ovals, I naturally make note of my
fellow health enthusiasts and am amazed at the percentage whose
ears are plugged with buds. It must be 75 to 80 percent at a
minimum. They walk, jog or run their laps oblivious to the sounds
around them, caught up in their own cocoon of endorphins.
I, on the other hand, prefer to get lost in the cacophony of the
building. The indoor track is on the second floor and overlooks
four basketball courts which are perpetually in use with men's
pickup games, teen leagues and organized children's groups. The
sounds from the four courts blend into a stew of squeeking
sneakers, feet pounding on wooden floorboards and the cheers that
follow a successful basket shot.
On the track itself, I hear my own heart thumping as I push to
walk a little faster while adding arm pumps. And then I will hear
the sound of a runner approaching to my left, loud foot falls and a
signature swoosh as they pass me. It's quite motivational.
When we were kids, music was not portable. Our music was a
symphony of the sounds of everyday life. We didn't plug in and tune
out, we embraced it.
We spent a lot of time outdoors. There were no computers or
video games drawing us indoors. Television was a luxury and there
was only one, so the entire family watched together. After dinner,
most families sat outside, especially during the milder months.
Our parents would sit on the stoop talking with the neighbors.
All the kids on the block would be in the street. In the
background, you could hear crickets and tree frogs. If a car came
down the street, there was no loud music blasting from its windows.
If we were riding our bikes, you might hear the sound of a folded
playing card flapping against the wheel spokes, held in place with
a clip-on clothespin. My mother never used the clip-ons, so I
always had to beg one from a friend. Of course I tried using
a regular clothespin but learned quickly that it stayed in place
for all of five seconds.
When it got late and we went inside, you could still hear the
sounds from the other houses on the block. No one had air
conditioning and everyone felt safe leaving their front doors wide
open even into the late hours. The sounds from each house wafted
through the screen doors. Usually every television in the
neighborhood was tuned to the same channel because everyone watched
the same shows from Bonanza to Lawrence Welk to the Tonight Show
with Jack Paar hosting.
Going to school brought its own set of sounds. I see children
boarding school buses today, ear buds in place. There's no way I
would have wanted to miss the conversations that went on during the
ride to school. It's where you heard all the latest gossip
including who was "going steady," who got grounded and who bought a
new album over the weekend. It was also the time to compare
homework notes and quiz each other for upcoming tests.
There was no possibility of listening to music at school unless
you were in music class. In Catholic grammar school, you didn't
even hear other students talking unless they were called on to
answer a question. If the class started getting noisy, we were
instructed to put our fingers on our lips. How silly we all looked,
index finger poised against our lips, fumbling to open books or
write notes with one hand.
After school was a different story. My girlfriends and I ran
home from the bus stop, peeled off our woolen plaid jumpers and
changed into pedal pushers and Keds.
I would run an extension cord out the front door and plug in my
Victrola. The 33 1/3 rpm vinyls of the Dave Clark Five, Freddy and
the Dreamers, Gerry and the Pacemakers or Herman's Hermits spun on
the turntable while we danced and sang along at the top of our
I don't understand today's trend of blocking out the world and
creating our own little orchestral islands. People become immersed
in their own thoughts and sounds, not even making eye contact with
other human beings as they go about their day. Maybe I'm just an
old busy body, but I want to hear, and see, and be completely aware
of my surroundings.
Call me old-fashioned (just don't call me old), but if a bird
chirps, thunder claps, leaves rustle, ocean waves break or, best of
all, children laugh - I want to hear it. Simon and Garfunkel
crooned the beauties of the sounds of silence, but I relate more to
Aerosmith's lyrics, "cause I don't want to miss a thing."
Cindy Phillips is a columnist for The
Mountain Times. She can be reached directly at