Last week, while we were on vacation, Stuart turned on our air conditioning fan to create "white noise" to cover up some thump-thump action in the bar next to our hotel. I'm a huge fan of white noise.
The official definition on Wikipedia -- the online encyclopedia -- "is a random signal (or process) with a flat power spectral density." In layman's terms, it means a constant and inoffensive noise that helps to drown out an inconsistent and offensive noise (like dance music, if you're not the one who is dancing).
Then, as we were returning home on the plane (a 4-hour flight), I discovered another type of noise, "pink noise." It came in the form of the in-flight movie that we had to watch to live through the cacophony of four, shrieking, teething, toddlers strategically placed in the plane's cabin.
Each child was located in an acoustic area that maximized the volume of his or her cries.
Although I was sympathetic to the children's bedraggled parents, my heart truly went out to the saints in the adjacent seats.
That's about the time that my mom showed me the coolest word in a dime-store store novel she was reading: "Hyperacusis."
Doesn't that sound awesome! Wikipedia describes it as "a health condition characterized by an over-sensitivity to certain frequency ranges of sound -- a collapsed tolerance to normal environmental sound."
Whoa! It went on to say: "A person with severe hyperacusis has difficulty tolerating everyday sounds, some of which may seem unpleasantly loud to one person, but not to others."
That's me! That explains a lot: traffic, and telephones, and the puerile prattle of most morning radio talk shows.
The article stated that in the most common form of hyperacusis, "the symptoms are ear pain, annoyance, and general intolerance to any sounds that most people don't notice or consider unpleasant."
Dead on the money for me. There was a dude on our flight home, who caught my already-perturbed attention. He sat down. Then, he got up and moved across the aisle. Then, he went back and got his sandwich. Then, he parked his sandwich and went back to the air-potty. Then, he came back to find that he had lost his new seat.
He found another one. He got up again to move his carry-on. All in all, that man got up and down no less than 13 times during that flight.
I was fantasizing about roping and hog-tying him, just to see if I could do it in 8 seconds or less. I was pretty sure the airline would award me with a free ticket just for getting him to stay in his seat for more than ten minutes.
Then the nerd in me took over, and I started figuring: A 4-hour flight would equate to 270 minutes of airplane time; 270 minutes divided by 13 pop-ups equates to just over 20 minutes per seated session.
So, if I had hog-tied the man, I guess I would have had to keep him in his seat for at least half an hour to get the prize, right?
Denese Rodgers is executive director of Connecting Henry, a social-services, networking, community organization in Henry County.