Go­ing, go­ing, gone!

Seaway News - - Opinion -

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.”

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