Crank Up The Volume



Just when you think this quirky little community of ours can't get any quirkier, it up and out-quirks itself.

The latest issue to capture our imagination (and way too much of our time) is noise. Who would've guessed how much noise Rimaroos can make over noise -- especially when it's somebody else's noise.

Taking decibel readings is the hottest new pastime under the Rim -- taking over the top spot in the latest Rim Country Get-a-Life ratings, slipping past treasure hunting with a metal detector and guarding our wells 24 hours a day with automatic weapons.

In fact, if they were to make reading your neighbor's decibels an Olympic sport, we could send one crackerjack team to Athens.

I do not bring this subject up to in any way minimize the significance of this activity. Decibel reading is, for those who have never tried it, a complex activity requiring a combination of sophisticated skills. These include:

  • Manual dexterity to push the meter button at just the right moment.
  • Auditory acuity to hear things others might not.
  • The tenacity of a bulldog to follow the noise wherever it leads.
  • Complex mathematical skills to translate data into usable information.

This last skill is necessary because any number of factors can affect the accuracy of a decibel reading -- including excessive wind, aiming the meter the wrong way, and whether the noise you are measuring is yours or your neighbor's.

Then there is the Tree-in-the-Forest syndrome. If a tree falls in the forest and there's nobody out there with a decibel meter, does it really make a sound?

But the most difficult part of this decibel meter reading business I am told by some of Payson's best, is that you can't trust decibel loudness comparison charts because of our unique location and atmospheric conditions. Such charts are designed for use at sea level, while Payson is 5,000 feet above.

Up here in the rarified air, according to one local decibel dude, noises register at 40 percent less than they do in, say, Los Angeles.

In fact, this columnist has been told point blank that he is pretty simplistic and naive for thinking he could use just any old decibel loudness comparison chart up here in the Rim country.

Now, I may be simplistic and naive (hey, I've heard those are traits that women like in a guy), but I can gripe with the best of them. So I have come up with a list of Rim country noises that tick me off, along with their decibel readings adjusted for altitude and atmospheric conditions and guaranteed accurate within .00001 decibels.

For sake of comparison, you need to know some typical decibel levels. Zero decibels, for example is not the absence of sound, but the level of the weakest sound heard. At the other end of the spectrum, the loudest sound possible measures 194 decibels. The Door Stop would like to see a noise ordinance that allows up to 75 decibels, while its foes would like an ordinance enacted that limits decibel levels to 55 during the day and 45 at night.

Keeping those numbers in mind, here are the Rim country noisemakers (and their certified-accurate decibel levels) that I'd like to see regulated:

  • Plastic Wal-Mart bags blowing down the street. (12 dB)

Not all that loud, but they don't exactly enhance our forest setting.

  • Town councilor whipping out badge and hollering, "Your turn signal is on, you moron." (76 dB)

Isn't there a country song about not taking your badge to town?

  • KRIM's Randy Roberson saying, "Too easy. I won't go there." (31 dB)

We love you Randy, but that line is fast becoming airwave filler.

  • Those god-awful-loud purple and yellow fences around all the athletic fields at Payson High School. (93 dB)

If there is eye candy, can't there also be eye noise?

  • Encountering a Valley hiker while walking your dogs in the forest. (224 dB repeated three times)
  • Sawmill whistle. (81 dB)

But it's a dry noise.

  • People hollering over each other's noise levels. (133 dB)

How does the saying go, "One man's junk is another man's ..."?

  • Campers from the Valley being campers from the Valley. (70 dB)

"C'mon Bubba, let's get them ATVs out and have us a little fun."

  • Ground cracking from drought. (224 dB)

Sounds just like a gunshot, although it doesn't come in threes like the sound of a local person encountering a Valley hiker while walking his dogs in the forest.

I hereby request the Payson Town Council to draft a noise ordinance that will effectively prohibit all of the above. In fact, I propose that the only sound allowed on the streets of Payson be the Voice of Reason, which registers a minus 10 dB.

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