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The Hum (for JRC)

Oct 02, 1995 05:26 AM
by K. Paul Johnson

Last week when I posted about living next to woods, JRC said
he'd be interested in further reports of changes I observed as
the result of moving to the country. Here's a weird one.

This weekend I drove up to Northern Virginia to help a friend
move. After we got most of his stuff moved, he and two other
friends and I went out to eat. Almost as soon as we sat down,
I noticed that the whole building seemed to be vibrating. Sort
of a metallic hum as if some HVAC component was right under our
table in the basement. So I asked the other three "do you feel
that?" Blank looks, so I described the humming, vibrating
sensation. No one else felt it.

Later on, while helping in the final stages of moving, I
noticed the same effect in the mid-rise building we were in.
Sitting on the bed I could feel the whole building vibrating.
Again I asked if others felt it too; again no one did.

What I finally concluded was that these sensations were simply
those of modern buildings in high-density areas with lots of
traffic. The buildings themselves are full of vibrating
machinery, and are on streets vibrating with non-stop traffic.
But all that was just "background" noise of which I was totally
unconscious before. Only after moving someplace that DOESN'T
vibrate like that was I able to perceive the hum of the city.

This is metaphorical, I think, of the way that we can be
oblivious to the most evident sensations as long as our
sensitivity threshold is high due to constant stimulation.
Lessen the stimulation, the threshold lowers, and soon one
starts noticing things that "weren't there before."

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