Make Some Noise: The Visible and Not-so-Visible Dangers of Beijing’s Perpetual Din

I’ve heard monks chanting their prayers in a monastery on the Tibetan plateau, listened to elderly Beijingers singing joyously in a park on a Sunday morning, and caught the cry of an eagle flying majestically over the Mongolian steppe. But on my death bed, I swear the most powerful sonic memory from my years in China will be that of a drill reverberating through walls and floors and burrowing its way into the reptilian part of my brain. You know the part. It’s the primordial core of the central nervous system, the one which occasionally enjoys crafting elaborate and baroque revenge fantasies against feckless neighbors in the middle of a home renovation project.

I get that I may be a little sensitive to noise. I grew up surrounded by trees in a small semi-rural community tucked in the far northeast corner of the United States. When I moved to Beijing it was, except for a couple of semesters spent studying in Singapore, the first time I had lived in a major city. It is entirely possible that I would have just as many complaints about noise had I settled in Boston or Berlin as in Beijing.

Or maybe not.