When Jeff and I bought our retirement home two years ago, neither of us had any intention of retiring. I expected to be away from home every day from 7:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; his usual day is actually an hour or two longer.
I immediately fell in love with our little house, and wanted to place an offer right away. Jeff had two major reservations: it doesn’t have a garage, and it backs up to a pretty major road, with significant truck traffic that runs in and out of the area’s many industrial parks. (Welcome to New Jersey: The Warehouse State)
The garage objection was easy to handle. Even though we’d had one in every place we’d ever lived, we’d never been able to put our cars inside, because they were such bloody clutter magnets. Dare I tell you that we swore the new place would be kept free from clutter?
Go ahead. Take a moment to laugh.
That’s enough now.
Jeff’s second objection had to do with the constant traffic behind the house. “Can you imagine the noise?”
I was so in love with the built-in bookshelves in the bedroom and the sunny living room with shutters on the windows that I wouldn’t have cared if the cast of Stomp did eight shows a week in the back yard.
“Look, Jeff,” I reasoned with him. “Even if there’s a constant parade of trucks all during the workday, you’re out of the house before it begins, and by the time we both get home, the traffic of the day is finished. We’ll hear a straggler or two, and maybe a couple of trucks making night deliveries. The walls are thick, and the bedroom windows face the other side of the house. The house itself is going to be quiet.”
“How about the sunroom?” he asked. When we toured the house, he had immediately identified that room as the man cave.
“Yes, that does face the road, but how much time will you spend there? An hour or two after dinner? With the TV blasting? I don’t think this will be a problem.”
So we bought the house.
And we put the TV in the sunroom.
And since that’s where the cable outlet was located, that’s where we put my desk and my computer, where I spend most of my hours at home.
And then I lost my job.
And now, I spend almost every waking hour of my life in that sunroom, listening to the constant flow of traffic on that incessantly noisy street behind me.
And I love it.
I don’t know how I ever lived without it.
It’s like living at the beach. The normal flow of cars resembles the flow of waves… almost predictable, but quirky enough to amuse you with its irregularity. Every now and then, nothing comes down the street, and the silence tugs at you, asking “Why is nothing happening?” When traffic resumes, with the gentle “whoosh” of passenger cars, you relax once again. You’re surrounded by life.
The trucks are funny. Most eighteen-wheelers roll by with a no-nonsense baritone hum; well-oiled, well-tuned, purposeful and filled with direction. But every now and then, you get a character that rolls through… a clangy municipal vehicle begging for maintenance, or a wheezy old workhorse proving it can still get the job done. They make me laugh.
With much less delight, in the two years we’ve been here we’ve learned that this road behind us is a speed trap. There are times when the sound of a siren breaks through, and a cop pulls over some poor schnook maybe ten, fifteen feet from our windows. At that point you might hear just about anything. Arguments. Excuses. Then, while the cop returns to the cruiser to write the ticket, you usually hear the “perpetrator’s” radio. Loud. Angry. By the time I’m ready to head outside and ask that it be turned off, the ticket is usually delivered, the “perp” is freed, and peace returns to our home… until the next guy gets caught.
The only sound I really hate to hear is that of the ambulances. They’re sharp. Piercing. Dangerous. You want them to go away quickly, knowing that in a neighborhood such as this, where most people are in declining health, there’s a chance one will dawdle and screech for a while, as it picks up someone who may or may not make it. But in a way, it’s good to hear them too… it reminds us to say a prayer, asking God to help the person who needs it today, and to thank God that we’re still strong and healthy.
One of our cats spends most of her hours sitting by a sunroom window watching the cars go back and forth. Her head turns from one side to the other as though she were watching a match at Wimbledon. She has become the metronome that keeps the beat of the cacophony around me, and I understand how captivated she is by this milieu we share.
I love it too.