Your truck is not a train and you are not Casey Jones.
I know- it’s heart breaking. In spite of all your Thomas the Tank Engine fantasies it’s just a truck. You’re not alone though- several of our neighbors share your delusion. The sound echoing through the night is enough to make Ronnie Biggs drool, but it’s just an illusion. That sounds you hear are industrial air horns mounted in personal automobiles.
If you were new to Seminole Heights the late night train horns would make you think we lived near a major rail line. A few years ago my wife wrote a poem inspired by the lonely sound of a distant train she heard one night. There are no active lines near our house. I felt a little guilty when I told her that her romantic image of a lonely locomotive chugging through the night was inspired by an inconsiderate fool with a train horn in his trunk.
I’m a gunzel, a foamer, a railfan- I love trains. I wear an engineer’s cap almost daily and a set of striped Roundhouse overalls when I’m welding in my shop. I’m one of those folks who breaks into a grin when I see the warning lights come on at a crossing. While other drivers sit and stew about the delay of their trip, I sit transfixed by these huge steel beasts. I love the roar and rattle of the rails and sleepers as these chariots of industry rumble along. I’ve written several songs about the railroads, the men who made them go, and the colorful culture they brought. I’ve ridden restored steamers in Hawaii and sleek, fast Eurorail trains in Europe. I’ve taken trains all over Florida and I cried when they cut the original Silver Palm line.
That said, there is nothing nostalgic about the guy on the next block blowing his horn when he comes home at 3am. It’s not just the noise. A train horn is an instrument. Different engineers have their own ways of laying on the horn. In the old days rail workers could identify trains and engineers by the way they blew their horns. There’s a big difference between an experienced engineer’s Louis Armstrong like expression and a ham fisted idiot’s attention whoring racket.
It’s not just the occasional train horn. What about the loud motorcycles? I can hear crotch rockets winding out for miles down our main streets. There’s a guy on a blue bike that tears down Ola Avenue between MLK and Osborne on a daily basis. Then there’s the neighbor with the two-wheeled, chromed mid-life-crisis-mobile down the street. If you were really born to be wild why do you spend so much time riding around the block like a kid on a Schwinn Stingray? I’ve seen the bumper sticker- ‘Loud pipes save lives!’. If the only thing standing between you and a horrible death is an obnoxiously loud exhaust system maybe it’s time to get a car or bicycle and save the hog for Sunday drives outside populated areas.
I love New Year’s Eve and the 4th of July. The wife and I usually go buy $20-30 worth of fireworks and set them off in the front yard. My dog even enjoys the fun. While everything has its time and place, another big noise problem is the pyromaniacs who set off fireworks at all hours of the night and all times of the year. I’m really confused by this one. Who goes outside at 1am and sets off one mortar? If the neighborhood associations in the area want to really improve the business culture of Seminole Heights, let’s get together and let the fireworks store on MLK and Florida Avenue know that they don’t serve the neighborhood or fit the vision we have for Seminole Heights.
Last July 4th several of my neighbors were putting mortar rounds in the storm drain in front of my house like grown versions of Beavis and Butthead. Their reckless and inconsiderate behavior wasn’t just loud- it was dangerous to themselves and others. How long before one of these people causes a major fire? I don’t want to see our twice-yearly fun banned because of irresponsible use.
What is the solution to noise issues in our quiet neighborhood? I would like to think that as neighbors we would be considerate of one another without new laws and bans. The change doesn’t need to come from the top down. The ‘me-firstism’ that is such an epidemic in our society does not have to be. The solution is building ‘neighborhood’. As I’ve said before, a neighborhood isn’t a thing- it’s a relationship like ‘motherhood’, ‘brotherhood’, or ‘parenthood’. Neighborhood, in this context, refers to the relationship between people who live in proximity to each other. If you know the people around you, if you offer and accept help and support from them, consideration and courtesy become second nature. The only thing that will improve our neighborhood is improving our ‘neighborhood’.