Am I the only one who notices the frequency of sirens in San Francisco or perhaps its just my neighborhood? While I’m new to the city, I’m not new to urban living, although after living in my quiet tree-lined street on the border of Cambridge Mass for far too many years, perhaps I’ve “gone a litt’l soft.”
It’s not something that keeps me up every night and yet, I can’t help but notice how often they wail. The time of day doesn’t seem to matter or be an indicator to what, where and why — the roaring noise echos in the distance at three am, four in the afternoon, mid-day. Someone recently remarked – “San Francisco has a lot of fires.” What’s a lot? I’d like to know.
I’ve spent a significant amount of time in Manhattan and have lived in Sydney, London and Johannesburg and never noticed so many sirens.
Clearly we need a loud alert of some form to let traffic know its time to move right when a fire truck or ambulance approaches, but are there alternatives? We have traditionally used them for emergency alerts, so perhaps we’re stuck with those blaring sirens, even though in many cases, they can cause unnecessary confusion, resulting in slowing of their passage.
Here’s more on whether the benefits outweigh the risks.
Then again, I’ve been re-reading so many books on “presence” and “awareness” lately, that perhaps I’m becoming more sensitive to this annoying hum. My authors on the topic would say “sit with it, absorb it, let it pass through me, etc…..” So perhaps I’ll try that. :-)
I love this humorous CBS News take on sirens. I couldn’t help but smile.
A few excerpts:
“Imagine you’re a patient in an ambulance being rushed to the hospital. That siren can’t be helpful to your condition. In New York, instead of the siren I’d like to hear Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York. If you were in an ambulance being rushed to the hospital what would you rather hear?”
“In San Francisco, how about Tony Bennett’s “I left My Heart in San Francisco?”
“Of course, that might not be the best song for a heart patient, but any song, any singer is better than a siren.”
“As far as letting traffic know to get out of the way, I’m sure in time we’ll learn to get out of the way of a song, just like we get out of the way of a siren, and getting out the way for a song is a lot more relaxing.”
Fat chance that this will ever get passed. For now, I think I’ll just need to resort to sitting with it, absorbing it, and letting it pass through me. With this approach, like the speed boats on the Adirondack lake where I grew up, the roar becomes part of what’s relaxing about the environment rather than a reminder that I’m living in an urban sprawl rather than on some quiet mountaintop.
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