The Great Metropolis face-off, Big Apple vs. Burning Man, round 3: cacophony

Living in New York City can be tough on one’s hearing. According to a group that measured the noise levels of several public places, the loudest areas include transportation hubs, busy streets, and even small parks surrounded by busy streets. Compounded by all of the new construction and outdoor repair work, it’s likely that pedestrians will pass through a gauntlet of ear-splitting noises. Parents shield their toddler’s ears as a screaming fire truck passes, and subway riders pull out ear plugs or crank up their music during especially noisy commutes.

While Black Rock City doesn’t have the constant cacophony of sirens and large vehicles that afflict a permanent metropolis, it does have its share of noise. Last year, I regularly woke up to the music of a group singing at the near-by Jazz Cafe. During the daytime, I heard the murmur of chatter, punctuated by the occasional rousing cheer, from the adjoining theme camp, a watering hole for passers-by. One night, I passed by an elegant recitation of a Shakespearean sonnet, which earned the earnest gentleman an enthusiastic double hug from the Hug Deli. However, I never had to listen to inane, one-sided cell phone conversations (remember when cell phone usage became popular and cities became populated by people who seemed like they were talking to themselves?).

For years, noise from large sound systems and generators caused contention between those who wanted to sleep and those who wanted to spin or dance all night. Burning Man organizers eventually resolved these issues by locating sound camps along the edges of the city and designating a generator-free zone.

Tips for protecting hearing: carry around at least one set of earplugs for yourself, plus more earplugs to share with friends. Toddlers and babies can wear earmuffs.

Enjoyable noise: Big Apple: 0, Burning Man: 1.

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