Pinging mobiles, sniffling passengers, desk diners The incessant noise of modern life never stops and its infuriating Emma Beddington. So whats the best way to find some peace and turn down the volume?
Ten years ago, I bought a box of earplugs. My partner occasionally snored and, at about 12 for 200 pairs, it seemed an absolute bargain. That was more than enough for a lifetime of peace, surely? I ran my hand through the slippery packets of foam slugs; they were yellow and pink, like rhubarb and custard sweets. I felt like an earplug millionaire.
The last time I put my hand in the box, I hit cardboard: a lifetimes supply of earplugs, nearly gone. There are rhubarb and custards under my pillow and in my handbag, in the pockets of every coat I own, in our vacuum cleaner, even stuck to my back as I blearily shower in the morning. I measure out my life in rhubarb and custard earplugs.
My name is Emma and I have become a noise bore: a shusher, a tutter and a wordless fulminator. I Google abandoned croft, Hebrides regularly and spent months researching noise-cancelling headphones. I seriously considered trading my rhubarb and custards in for a 300 pair: 300 for earplugs! Barely a week goes by without me quoting the Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) Regulations 2002 at a driver with an idling engine, and I email Ian, the local council noise enforcement officer, more often than I email my sister.
Ive been noise-sensitive for years. Maybe the seeds were sown in my first year at university, a stressful time, filled with harrowing sex noises and the Prodigy from the room next door as I tried to work or sleep. It might go back further: I went to a Quaker school with daily sessions of silent meeting for worship, which left me with an eerie ability to sit completely still for hours and a craving for calm.