This was originally written after I got back from our last visit to my parents' house. I thought I'd dust it off and actually post it, since I am in the thick of Loudsville again.
May 1, 2009:
Piper and I spent two weeks in Michigan, staying at my parents' house. It was two weeks of pretty much constant traveling and bustle, as we careened around trying to see everyone and do everything. I think I managed to hit everything on my list, squeezing in a few hours at Belle Isle on Monday. I was glad I got to go, since a trip out there with my swanky D60 was at the top of my to-do list. I LOVE it there. Practically everything is old and abandoned and crumbling and beautiful. I got a lot of shots of the abandoned zoo this time. I did not get to stop at all the spots I wanted to, since my mom and Piper were with me. It was nice to have my mom along to distract the kid, but she was ready to go after about 45 minutes. My mom, that is, not Piper. Piper was cool with it all, she would've happily played on the giant playground, splashed in puddles, and chased geese until she dropped in her tracks.
It was nice to be around people again, to have friends to hang out with and playmates for Piper. It was also nice to come back to our little house. I needed some peace and quiet because I always feel like my parents' house is so LOUD. The TV is always on and the volume is cranked up. Everyone is always talking, and instead of turning the TV down they all talk over it. And then over each other. The phone rings constantly, and since they got Caller ID a few years ago they refuse to answer the phone most of the time, they just stare at the display and ask each other "Do you know that number?" "No, do you?" "It's a telemarketer." "Well, I'm not going to answer that!" "I'm not either!" while the phone rings and rings and rings.
My mother's younger brother calls at least three times a day. Her work calls at 5:00 almost every morning, and then again at 6:00 to ask if she's really, really sure she doesn't want to come in today (she's an on-call nurse and picks her own days). The phone ringers are all cranked up to maximum volume because my mom says she can't hear it ring when she is outside gardening. Never mind they've just had six months of snow and she told me that since she had no time for gardening last summer, this year she's going to let it all go. Apparently doing absolutely nothing but watching the snow fall or the flowers grow in her back yard still requires a ringer volume of 11.
Her cell phone plays an irritating, hokey country song - also at maximum volume - whenever she gets a text message, which is about every 20 minutes since several of her siblings got cell phones this past year. She learned how to download songs and ring tones onto it, which play at ear-splitting levels whenever anyone calls. Her computer speakers are turned up to max, too, and she is constantly playing YouTube videos of my cousins' Christian band or those crazy animated "You're a great friend!" forwards with the tinny music.
Their next-door neighbor has a machine shop in his garage and mechanical noises issue from it until the wee hours. While we were there, not only was he running loud machines, he pulled up a semi truck with what appeared to be a portable Army barracks attached to it - camouflage and all - and started cleaning out his house. They recently sold it, but somehow get the keep the garage (with noisy machine shop intact).
When the phone isn't ringing, my mom is talking to one of her siblings or her mother or numerous friends, re-telling the same stories (mostly about how much she hates her job) over and over. Loudly, of course, bellowing into the receiver over the sound of the TV, the computer, the stereo, and ten people talking.
My brother comes over and puts on music and cranks the volume up; he shows my dad stuff on the computer, video clips that I can hear when I am upstairs at the opposite end of the house. My sister comes home and watches Food Network, turning the volume steadily upward to try and drown out the rest of the house. Which, of course, makes everyone get louder.
And whenever I say anything, they all act like it's my problem. In the car, my brother put a CD in and immediately turned the volume up to 35 before it even played. Piper and I were in the back seat and nearly got blasted out the window.
"Hey, can you turn that down?" I asked. "It's really loud back here."
"I can barely hear it up here," he said.
"Well, turn the fade all the way to the front, then. We're getting blasted." I showed him where the appropriate knob was, but it didn't make much difference so I asked him again to turn it down.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with it. The fade is all the way to the front now and I can barely hear it up here!"
"And I am telling you that it is too loud. It is too loud for me. It is too loud for Piper-"
"-look at her, she doesn't seem to mind. Your ears are just too sensitive. You have a problem."
"I am her parent, and I think the music is too loud to be good for her hearing."
"Loud music is awesome, I don't know what your problem is. Why are you teaching her to be an old fogey? Turn it down! Psh!"
"Listen," I said, "you claim you can't hear it up there. But you started talking louder when it came on. So at least some part of your body acknowledged that it was beyond normal conversational level. The volume control is at 35 right now, that is more than loud enough."
He made some crack about me being an "old fart" and turned the music off entirely, saying again that I had some kind of ear problem.
This exchange is pretty typical of my family. It's not me, it's you; it's not my fault; I didn't do it; you're the one with the problem, not me.
I was upstairs putting Piper to bed when and I heard the TV blaring from the living room downstairs. Upstairs and across the house, I could still hear every word of the annoying car commercial. I went downstairs and asked my mom why the TV was so loud.
"What?" She said. "It's not loud. I don't think it's loud. I mean, I didn't turn it up. It was just that way. The commercial came on and it was loud. But I didn't set the volume control. I didn't do it. I didn't make it loud. It wasn't me."
"So you couldn't, say, turn it down?" I picked up the remote and turned the volume down.
"Well, I didn't turn the TV on. It wasn't me, I didn't make it loud. I didn't know, maybe somebody wanted it that way or something. But I didn't make it loud, it's not my fault. It was the commercial that was loud."
"Yeah, but it didn't occur to you to maybe turn it down when it got loud?"
"Well, I didn't turn the TV on. It wasn't me. And anyway, I don't think it's that loud."
I sighed. "I could hear it all the way upstairs. I was trying to get Piper to sleep and it woke her up."
"Well, I don't know. It's not my fault. I didn't do it."
This is the way they all react whenever I say anything about the TV being loud. It's the commercials, they're loud, it's not my fault you can hear it from the end of the driveway. I can't do anything about it, the commercials are just so loud. Then they have discussions and complain about how loud commercials are these days. It never occurs to anyone at any point during these discussions to turn it down when a program goes to commercial.