Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Exploration #14: Sound Map

Exploration #14
Sound Map
Sit in a location for one hour. Document all the sounds you can hear and the times you heard them. 
Mark the approximate location of the sounds in relation to you on a map.

This Exploration task was a great excuse to go to Barnes and Noble and sip a gingerbread latte topped with fluffy whipped cream. I grabbed a couple of books on tea parties (my next Bunco party theme is The Mad Hatter Tea Party) and a Photoshop Magazine (which I ended up buying) before heading to a table situated next to the stairs that led up to the cafe. Sitting at a table next to me was a man writing in a notebook, who as you will read later, turned out to be a pervert. Diagonally from me to the left were a group of fire department cadets. When I walked past them they were discussing the properties of water. Behind me, on the other side of the stairs were two men who never once stopped talking. I thought an hour was going to be a long time to just listen to things but because the bookstore was full of last minute Christmas shoppers, the task was relatively easy and the hour went by quickly.

I began at 10:11am. Here is a rundown of what I heard, and experienced during that one hour. I did document the exact time I heard everything but to save you from tedious boredom, I'm choosing to blog in a more condensed form. I've also decided to forgo drawing a map, which I don't think is necessary to get the gist of what I heard.

The very first sound I picked up at 10:11 was someone whistling. I would hear whistling again at 11:04.

I heard various pieces of conversation at different times (if you are a writer..ahem, Nichole & Lita, you could use these as prompts and write a quick little short story *wink*):
"Oh, that's right"
"I understand that but.." (This was a store employee talking on the phone about a return. She kept repeating the same sentence but with more impatience each time.)
"I feel bad about that"
"That's so cool"
"Just forget about that"
"It's in my blood"
"It's pretty obnoxious"
"No offense"
"That one would be good"
"That makes sense"
"He stands out in the picture"
"I'm not going to lie"
"I'm kind of amazed"
"I have a question"
"When are you getting married?"
"Not surprising"
"Hey Willie!"
"Okay, thank you"
"It's never easy"
"Maybe we'll go on Friday"
"You know? Yea, yea."
"Jack, hurry up!"
"You're 30 and so skinny!"

I'm very sensitive to noise and the cappuccino machine drove me nuts. SHHHHHHH is the sound it made. Oh, the irony. Cappuccinos were made six times in the one hour span. I guess that's not too many. From behind the counter there was also the sound of a microwave beeping, someone scooping out ice, rinsing dishes with a sprayer, stacking dishes. A pounding sound, as if someone was hammering with a mallet also came from the same area. I tried not to look at what or who was producing the sounds, relying strictly on the sense of hearing.

There were three distinct shoe sounds: Clogs, High Heels and Flip Flops. The clogs sounded like a horse, the high heels where high pitched and the flip flops sounded sticky.

About half-way through my one hour, the single man at the table across from me sighed. He had been writing in his notebook vertically as if he was writing Japanese. He was writing with a pencil and had a white leather pencil case laying on the table next to the notebook. He wore glasses and looked just like Tucker from There's Something About Mary.

I don't know why I have to go and start up conversations with strangers but when he caught my eye, I asked him what he was writing. Now, mind you, I'm a total stranger to this guy, a girl at that. And this guy proceeds to tell me that he's writing a screenplay; but that his friend thinks he should write Erotica; but he used to be able to write about sex; but now he just wants to write it more raw; but he's not sure that would be acceptable; but that he wrote a story about two women getting it on that was published in PRIDE magazine and he got $125 for it.

I was squirming like a caged Cornish Pixie and wishing Lita and her can of MACE were with me. This vertically writing character had now become Mr. Creep-me-out and as soon as I possibly could, I got out of the conversation but not before he decided to tell me that he writes best when he's stoned and his friend thinks he smokes too much pot. After I went back to writing, he got up, wished me a nice day and left. Or, so I thought.

He came back, approached the railing below me, looked up and said "Do you like peppermint?". I actually do like peppermint but I lied and told him no. "Oh, because I was going to give you some peppermint chocolates I had in my car." Dude, I don't want anything you have in your car. All of a sudden I felt like Elaine with the TV Guide guy from Seinfeld. Was he going to come back with his penciled pages fashioned into a bouquet? Oh, gosh, please just leave.

Once that uncomfortable exchange was over, I got back to documenting sounds:
A girl laughs.
Someone shuffles their feet.
Something is being removed from a plastic bag.
Someone is flipping the pages of a book.
An unknown whirling sound drowns out everything.
My chair creaks when I shift to a more comfortable position.
A throat clearing takes place behind me, then coughing.
A toddler is trying to form words but is only successful with "da" and "mommy".
A food package is being opened. I think it's a scone. I'm beginning to get hungry.
A woman drags two tables across the floor and apologizes to everyone in the cafe for the noise it's causing.
A preteen giggles.
A small boy is not convinced he likes chocolate milk. His mother reminds him that he does.
A fork hits a plate.
A woman walks by humming.
Someone scoots their chair closer to the table.
The store phone rings.
Two cell phones ring and I hear texting going on as well at various times.
An employee walks by right as his store phone, which looks like a walkie talkie, rings.
A bell rings. An angel gets it's wings. :)
Someone is rocking their chair back and forth on the legs.
Paper crumples.
A child laughs. A fairy is born. :)
A couple walks by whispering to each other.
I finally notice the overhead lights have a continuous buzz. Now, it's annoying me.
Knuckles crack.
Keys jingle.
A woman asks where the Suduko puzzle books are located.
Someone shuts a book with force.

The best thing I heard and saw? After Tucker left the table across from me, an elderly chap sat down with a children's book. When he opened the book, a computer-generated woman's voice said something and the man looked at me and giggled. I smiled. He then proceeded to record a message into the book:
"This is your grandpa. I love you. Let's make this book together." I smiled again. This one moment made up for the creep encounter.

During this task, I kept imagining my ear tugging towards the sounds like Bilbo's ear in Fellowship of the Ring, when the Sackville-Baggins were looking for him at his birthday party. It was a fun task despite the Tucker incident and I'm sure I will now be paying more attention to the sounds around me.


Nichole Renee said...

Great idea and great post! Already, I'm tuning in to the sounds around me (keys jangling and a plastic back shaking).

And the Tucker section, I have to admit, was pretty funny. Of course, I would have felt differently in your shoes, but it made for a good read!

And the grandpa with the book? Priceless.

Laura said...

Thanks Nichole!
Yes, the Tucker incident as it is now known around my house was creepy but it did make for something to write about! When I'm done with this book Nichole, I'm going to mail it to you. I think you would have so much fun with these tasks and it would be fun to see your take on them!

Alex said...

You really picked up on a lot. The part about the grandfather really touched my heart. I find it interesting how you were able to identify the sound of the scone wrapper. Perhaps the scone is one of your favorite nibbles too:)

Laura said...

Haha! Busted! Yes, I love the cinnamon scones thanks to Lita getting me hooked! The grandfather moment made the whole task worthwhile. :)
I plan on doing one exploration task a week in 2011! Wish me luck!

Lita said...

Truly remarkable post! =)

It was engrossing from start to finish ... LOL - yes, those would make some great prompts ... And yeah, I could understand why it would've been comforting to have my MACE out and handy. Aww about the grandpa message, and although a lot of what you wrote caught my fancy, the one about the boy not liking chocolate milk despite what his mom said and the one where a fairy was born were my faves :) ♥

Laura said...

Thanks! I loved overhearing about the chocolate milk debate. So cute!