My brother Jimmy has very sensitive ears, which, if you knew him as a young boy, seems a bit ironic. He was a loud young lad. Very loud. His favorite TV show was Emergency, that 1970’s series that chronicled the do-goodings of two competent young paramedics working the streets of Los Angeles. In those days common was the sight of Jimmy sticking his head out the window of the family station wagon wailing like an “Emergency” siren. We used to joke that so compelling was his siren imitation that cars actually pulled over for the would-be emergency vehicle. The boy could belt it out.
Since those early years it is now well known in the family that if one shrieks or yells in close proximity of Jimmy, he will immediately sport a pained expression and seek to get away from the offending sound-source. He regularly, after getting into my car, turns down the stereo while making faces like an annoyed little-old-lady, declaring, “that is just too loud.” Granted, I tend to play my music quite loud, especially in the car….but Jimmy, we’re in our 40s, not our 90s dear brother!
On several occasions while on a road trip with my brother he has suddenly demanded, “Do you hear that? That rattling noise?” while frantically moving things around the car, shifting CD cases, opening and closing the ashtray, pushing on various panels trying to identify the source of the offending noise. There is no peace until the situation is corrected which sometimes involves pulling off the highway and shuffling things around in the car. I am not kidding. I am not exaggerating. This has happened. More than once. Anyway, you get the picture. The guy is sensitive.
A few months ago a PG&E energy audit of my little bungalow identified my ancient refrigerator as an abominable energy waster and suggested that a new cold box would quickly pay for itself in electricity cost savings. So I decided to buy a new Energy Star fridge, my contribution to saving the planet. Besides, with Jimmy now living with me, we needed more room for his beer and a better setup cause we are both not the greatest bachelors and will forget about food we have bought if we don’t see it front and center. And forgotten food goes bad. And it stinks. Wasting food? Not good for the planet. Stinking food? Not good for impressing would-be girlfriends.
I took Jimmy with me to Sears to pick out the refrigerator. Like some strange Bay-Area couple we checked out the various fridges, contemplating styles, cost versus function, etc. I knew I wanted a bottom drawer freezer with an ice-maker. At last we decided on a nice Kenmore which was delivered and installed a few days later. Ah, a nice new fridge with plenty of room and the food stuff all up top so we could see it and remember to eat it.
The next morning, a Saturday, Jimmy walks into my bedroom and with me bleary-eyed and still in bed he asks “Do you hear that?” “What?” I respond. “That.” I listen hard. “Nope. I don’t hear anything.” I ask him what the hell he is talking about. Jimmy has that pained look on his face and says, “The ice-maker….I heard it all night.” I can’t hear a fucking thing but we head into the kitchen and he opens the freezer drawer, points at the ice tray and explains that after the fridge makes the ice cube it drops noisily into the plastic tray. And the sound is driving him nuts. Now mind you, the fridge sits on the other side of my bedroom wall. I hear nothing. Jimmy’s room is down a short hall away from the kitchen. He is tortured.
In the days following, when hanging out at home, Jimmy would suddenly erupt with, “There it goes! Did you hear that?” Usually I did not. But one night I did catch the little clink of the cube of ice landing on the other little cubes of ice in the plastic tray. Ok, Jimmy is not crazy. At least not for that.
Then one day I come home, open the freezer drawer to grab some ice for my drink and discover a dish towel draped across the ice tray with a few ice cubes resting on top of it. I look at Jimmy inquisitively and he explains that the towel absorbs some of the sound of the ice cubes falling into the tray. He is sleeping better at night with the little makeshift padding strategically placed in our freezer drawer. Weeks pass. Then the other day I went for some ice and saw that the towel had disappeared. Now that the tray is relatively full, it seems Jimmy’s life has gotten a little easier here in the Bungalow. Meanwhile, I still don’t hear a fucking thing.