Going, going, gone!
There are eight senses that I know of: hear, see, feel, taste, smell, fashion, common and sixth. The last three seem to be on the endangered species list. This week I’ll explore some personal observations on the first, people’s ability to hear, plus the related skill of listening. Among the senses that atrophy with old age and environmental conditions is the ability to hear. Some sounds have gone the way of the dinosaurs, bell bottoms and handwriting. When I first started writing for publication, the process was accompanied by sounds like tap, tap, tap…then the end of the line bell, followed by the zzzipppp of the shift to the next line. Writing is now a silent process. When I’ve eliminated as many typos, misspellings and grammatical errors as possible, I call upon my internet server to deliver the words. Gone is the cacophony of buzzes and whistles of dial-up. I now have a high-speed connection.
The only time I still hear the rat-a-tat-tat of a dot matrix printer is when the ATM updates my bank book. Long gone is the almost inaudible scratch of the teller’s pen nib as she entered my first account’s balance. That was 65 years ago.
At Mom and Dad’s, we had early morning mail delivery. On Saturdays I’d eagerly await the stomp, stomp of the mailman’s boots as he climbed the steps of our front porch. The sharp clack of the mail slot’s spring-loaded metal flap was followed by the silence of letters fluttering to the floor. However, if the sound was a thump, I’d fly down the 14 steps from my bedroom to retrieve what I hoped was a reply from Avro in England, or Douglas in Santa Monica. I used to write to them, “Dear sirs, I’m making a model of your latest aircraft, but I need a set of photos and three-view drawings of it to make it accurate. Please send…” They did.
I can still remember my grade six teacher announcing, “Class, today we are going to learn how to write a pretend business letter to a company. You can make up any name and any request you wish…” “Do I have to? I’ve been doing that for real at home. Look what I just got from the man at Boeing.”
The once familiar sounds of travel are gone too. Locomotives no longer huff, huff, puff, puff, and chug. The smooth rumble of a diesel is not very exciting. Some sounds of air travel are but fond memories too. I remember the whine, followed by the laboured cough and splutter that was the invariable preamble to the start-up of an airliner’s radial engine. The de Havilland Otter’s engine continued to clatter throughout its flight, but the DC-3’S settled down to a smooth hum. However, the mighty roar of the four-engined Super Connies never went below umpteen decibels.
It’s not just aviation and railway engines that emitted long-remembered distinctive sounds. Coax your memory to bring back the chatter of the 4-cylinder aircooled VW Beetle engine. It’s as distinctive as the sound of a Rolls-royce Merlin engine.
When Mr. Dawson, the small boat captain in the recent movie `Dunkirk’, hears the sound of an approaching aircraft, without turning around to verify, he proclaims, “Rolls-royce Merlin engines. Sweetest sound you could hear` out here.”