I awoke to the sound of bells. At first, I dreamily thought of ice cream trucks; in my sleepy mind it seemed perfectly reasonable that an ice cream van would be making the rounds at 8 AM- the only question was: could I get dressed in time to catch it?
But my head cleared and I realized I wasn't hearing Good Humor, I was hearing Jingle Bells. And Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. And Winter Wonderland.
Across the street, the hospital had erected a small Christmas display- nothing ostentatious, just a few fake trees and some lights- but this year they had added an audio element- a loudspeaker blaring a handful of X-Mas Muzak songs in an endless cycle.
The brick wall of the hospital acted as an amplifier- the sound reflected off the wall and echoed back directly into my apartment- I like to read and write in silence- so those activities were proscribed...maybe some TV?
It was unseasonably warm outside and I had the window open, which allowed fresh air and stale music to enter- at one point, I couldn't hear the news announcer because 'Winter Wonderland' was drowning her out.
After an hour of watching Close Caption TV, I walked across the street to the hospital, where I asked the receptionist if there was someone that I could speak to regarding the loudspeaker outside.
She didn't know, but she did answer two of my questions.
-The music would only play between 8 AM and 9 PM. This meant I would only have to hear Frosty the Snowman 37 times per day.
- It would only be played until X-mas. X-Mas was 29 days away, which meant I'd only have to hear Frosty 1,073 times over the next four weeks...I felt prematurely waterboarded.
The lady helpfully took my name and number and assured me that someone would call me, but they never did. I called a few hours later, the same lady answered the phone, which lead me to voice mail limbo. Eventually, I abandoned my home for the evening;Rudolph and Frosty had won.
I retreated from Retreat Hospital, defeated and distraught.
For the moment.
That night, I was explaining the situation to a friend. She suggested I call the ACLU.
Because it's a X-Mas display on public property...yadda, yadda...maybe I could call City Hall.
My friend missed the point. It could be a Nativity Scene, a giant Buddha or Madonna* on a fucking cross- that wouldn't bother me- it's the constant noise that was driving me mad; I felt like the killer in Poe's Tell-Tale Heart, except without the murder.
Make it stop. Make it stop.
The thought of having to endure it for another 28 days was unbearable. Unfortunately, I had to return home at some point...maybe tomorrow I could talk to someone 'in charge'.
The next morning it started again. I asked a different Desk Lady about the Muzak speakers. She said Security was in charge of the display.
Great! There's a Security Guard right here- I'll ask him if he can turn the Muzak box off.
He didn't know how. I wanted to call him an idiot but he had a gun, so I politely asked if there is someone who might know.
At 9 pm a man will come and turn it off.
There are 31 Frosties between now and 9pm.
By 9 PM Winter Wonderland will have played 31 times, yet it will have snowed not a single flake. It is 60 degrees outside.
There may be several hundred playings of Wonderland until we see snowfall here- if we ever do. It doesn't matter, I'll have gone mad by that time. The X-Mas siege is only in it's second day and I'm already near the edge. I doubt that I'll last a week.
So I walked outside and stood underneath the deck. Directly over my head the loudspeaker blared the melody of Frosty the Snowman, # 41 in a series of 1,073- it wouldn't be impossible to climb up there, I thought, but there are cameras, guards, lots of traffic etc...I may be an anarchist but that doesn't mean I enjoy going to jail.
I ruled out the climbing option. I had a better idea. Loudspeakers, just like lights, use electricity.
I saw two cords plugged into an outdoor outlet on one of the deck's columns. I unplugged the one that wasn't blinking.
I walked out to the sidewalk and looked up. The trees were glowing in golden silence.
(*As long as she isn't singing)