Volume

Now that there aren’t people on three continents tapping their feet and looking at their watches, waiting for me to turn in my LP manuscripts, I’ve gone about the task of re-training my body to sleep past 7:30am. It wasn’t easy, but after a solid week of staying up until 2am and self-medicating with a variety of alcohol, I was able to get over the 7:30 hump. I’ve stalled out at the 9-9:30 mark for now, but that’s had more to do with my surroundings making sleep impossible than physiological programming.

As many of you probably already know, Latin people, Spanish and Italian in particular, are a lively, gregarious, excitable bunch. More succinctly, they’re loud as hell. Rare is there a conversation conducted at what most people would deem a calm, moderate level. Indeed, even an innocuous conversation about gardening or needlepoint is punctuated with vocal crescendos, wild gesticulation and the odd, impassioned curse word. Furthermore, yelling conversations down the street or across hotel lobbies are common. Horn honking is done with gratuitous enthusiasm. TVs and radios are left on in each room, at deafening levels, whether anyone is there to enjoy them or not. Latin people not only like noise, I firmly believe they would go bonkers without it. Romanians are no exception.

And so we come to my problem. I am not a champion sleeper, even at the best of times. I’m unusually sensitive to noise and the onset of summer has jacked up the general city noise level here in Iasi, right on schedule. When you’re surrounded by people who don’t seem to register what would otherwise be considered disruptive levels of noise, and some of those people like to rise with the chickens and get straight to work, sleeping late becomes a challenge.

If there have ever been any noise ordinances in Romania, they have obviously never been enforced. Several people in my building, who are totally oblivious to their surroundings (a Romanian specialty), like to get up at 7:30am, crank up the stereo and start their day with a bang. Meanwhile, others descend on the area directly outside my apartment and begin working with jackhammers and power saws or tuning their 30 year old Russian car that sounds as if it’s been fitted with a Cessna engine.

There isn’t even any relief on the weekends. Like most people in the world, Romanians like to do a bit of house cleaning on Saturday and Sunday, including the carpet. However, the whole vacuum cleaner fad has yet to really take off here. Instead people roll up their carpets, lug them outside, hang them over a fence and beat the snot out of them with a swatter the size of a tennis racket. It usually starts at about 7am; whack, whack, whack, whack! With the all the flat, boxy buildings around here, the noise from this whacking bounces and resonates to the point where it sounds like gun fire. Moreover, since every car here has an alarm and they are all set to ‘extra sensitive’ this whacking is usually accompanied by incessant warning chirps from a handful of nearby cars that are tickled by the sound waves.

The warmth and early sunrise of summer only encourages these social deviants to get started at even more uncivilized hours. Soon it will be windows-open-all-night weather and when that time comes I’m doomed. Latin people can only reliably maintain acceptable quiet between 1am and 7am, so the old bags under the eyes are going to be getting good and saggy in the coming weeks as I try to find a solution to this predicament.

Last summer I used the pillow sandwich technique to protect my ears, but since then one of my pillows was reassigned as a desk chair cushion to rescue my bony, throbbing ass from all the hours I was putting in at the laptop. In deference to my lingering germophobic leanings, once something has been in regular contact with ass, even one as sweet and perky as mine, there’s no way in hell it’s getting near my face, no matter what it’s soaked in.

So, if this blog begins to sound crazed, incoherent and bizarre, more so I mean, you’ll know why. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to milk the pink hippo before it galvanizes the banana squeegee.

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